BILLINGS, Mont. - A Laurel man was arraigned Thursday on an indictment which alleges he attempted to illegally obtain $35,000 from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), according to U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme.
The PPP is a federal loan program created through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to help businesses struggling with the financial effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
Matthew Jason Welch, 38, pleaded not guilty to two counts of wire fraud. Wire fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and three years of supervised release.
Alme says the indictment against Welch is the first PPP fraud case to be charged in Montana.
Welch is accused of attempting to unjustly benefit from the loan program by submitting an application to obtain a PPP loan with the intention to use the money to pay for restitution and other costs related to pending criminal cases against him. The indictment also alleges that Welch, in the name of Welch Sole Proprietorship, sought $35,000 in PPP funds to support payroll, lease and mortgage-interest costs, and utility costs and that he falsely certified he was not subject to criminal charges.
The U.S. Small Business Administration and the U.S. Secret Service investigated the case.
Information provided by the Department of Justice U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Montana.