Arkansas man pleads guilty to bank fraud, false statements in connection to COVID relief fraud

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WASHINGTON — An Arkansas project manager has pleaded guilty to bank fraud charges for filing fraudulent bank loan applications seeking more than $8 million in forgivable Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the COVID Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Benjamin Hayford, 32, of Centerton, Arkansas, pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud and four counts of false statements to a financial institution before U.S. District Judge Claire V. Eagan of the Northern District of Oklahoma. Sentencing has been scheduled for Nov. 4 before Judge Eagan.

As part of his guilty plea, Hayford admitted that he sought millions of dollars in forgivable PPP loans from multiple banks by claiming fictitious payroll expenses. To support his applications, Hayford provided lenders with fraudulent payroll documentation purporting to establish payroll expenses that were, in fact, non-existent. In addition, Hayford admitted to making false representations to a financial institution concerning the date that a Limited Liability Partnership for which he applied for relief was established.

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