Houston entrepreneur spent $1.6M in COVID-19 relief funds on Lamborghini, strip clubs: prosecutors

Wonder why your small business did not get PPP?

HOUSTON – A 29-year-old Houston man is accused of making fraudulent applications for coronavirus relief aid and then spending the money on luxury items, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Lee Price III was arrested and is charged with making false statements to a financial institution, wire fraud, bank fraud and engaging in unlawful monetary transactions. He appeared in federal court at 2 p.m. Tuesday and was appointed a federal public defender during the hearing and a detention hearing was scheduled for Thursday at 10 a.m.

Prosecutors said Price was involved in a scheme to submit fraudulent Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan applications to federally insured banks and other lenders. Two of the fraudulent applications Price made received funding, according to the criminal complaint:

  • Price Enterprise Holdings allegedly received $900,000

  • A loan application listing 713 Construction was approved for $700,000

“The loan applications allegedly asserted both entities each had numerous employees and significant payroll expenses,” officials wrote. “According to the charges, however, neither entity has employees nor pays wages consistent with the amounts claimed in the loan applications.”

Officials also said the person who was listed as the CEO of 713 Construction had died in April 2020, more than a month before the loan application was submitted.

Price is accused of using the money to make “lavish personal purchases” including a Lamborghini Urus, a Rolex watch, a 2020 Ford F-350 pickup truck and a real estate transaction, officials wrote.

“He also allegedly spent thousands at strip clubs and other Houston night clubs,” officials wrote.

If convicted, Price could face a maximum penalty of up to 30 years in federal prison and $1 million fine on the bank fraud charge and up to 10 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine for the unlawful transactions charge.

What is PPP?

The Small Business Administration (SBA) guarantees the loans for COVID-19 relief through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act which was enacted on March 29.

The PPP allocated $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses for job retention and certain other expenses. In April 2020, the United States Congress authorized another $300 billion towards the PPP.

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