FORT MYERS, Fla. — A Florida couple has pleaded guilty to stealing nearly $900,000 in COVID-19 relief funds.
Amber Bruey, 35, of Lehigh Acres, pleaded guilty Wednesday in Fort Myers federal court to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering and illegal monetary transactions, according court records. Her husband, Anthony Bruey, pleaded guilty to the same charges last month. A sentencing date wasn’t immediately set for the couple.
According to court documents, the Brueys conspired to submit a total of 26 fraudulent Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan applications to the Small Business Administration, as well as approved lenders and loan processing companies, between April 2020 and June 2020.
The applications contained numerous false and fraudulent representations, including the applicant’s dates of operation, payroll, gross revenues, total number of employees and the criminal histories of the applicants or business owners.
Lenders and the SBA approved 12 of the loans, allowing the Brueys to collect $881,058.35 in PPP and EIDL funds. The couple used the money to buy a $211,457 home in North Carolina, two vehicles and to make a $23,566 restitution payment in a previous criminal case for Amber Bruey.
The Paycheck Protection Program represents billions of dollars in forgivable small-business loans for Americans struggling because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s part of the coronavirus relief package that became federal law in 2020.