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Texas Man Charged For Using COVID Relief Fund To Buy Cryptos

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A Texas man was charged in the Southern District of Texas for allegations of fraudulently obtaining more than $1.1 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans to invest in cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, according to a statement by the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ).

29-year old Joshua Thomas Argires from Houston, Texas was charged and arrested in a criminal complaint for making false statements to a financial institution, wire fraud, bank fraud and engaging in unlawful monetary transactions.

Argires allegedly perpetrated a scheme to file two fraudulent loan applications seeking more than $1.1 million in forgivable loans. The Small Business Administration (SBA) guarantees the loans for COVID-19 relief through the PPP under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Argires is alleged to have submitted the fraudulent PPP loan applications to federally insured banks on behalf of two entities called Texas Barbecue and Houston Landscaping, claiming that the two companies had numerous employees and hundreds of thousands of dollars in payroll expenses.

The complaint further asserts that both of these loans were funded, but that none of the funds were used for payroll or other expenses authorized under the PPP.

Argires is also alleged to have used the fraudulently received funds, on behalf of Texas Barbecue, to invest in cryptocurrencies after opening a cryptocurrency account in the name of Texas Barbecue at crypto-exchange Coinbase, Inc. in mid-May 2020.

Argires began a series of transactions, ultimately resulting in the transfer of $956,250 into the Texas Barbecue Coinbase account through a series of five identical wire transfers. Some of this is allegedly invested in cryptocurrency, which generated a profit.

According to the charges, the funds obtained for Houston Landscaping were held in a bank account and slowly depleted via ATM withdrawals.

The CARES Act is a federal law enacted March 29. It is designed to provide emergency financial assistance to millions of Americans who are suffering the economic effects resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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