A project manager employed by a major retailer 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 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Trent Shores for the Northern District of Oklahoma, Acting Deputy Inspector General Richard Parker of the Federal Housing Finance Agency Office of Inspector General (FHFA OIG), Inspector General Jay N. Lerner of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) OIG and Inspector General Hannibal “Mike” Ware of the SBA OIG made the announcement.
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.
The CARES Act is a federal law enacted on March 29, 2020, designed to provide emergency financial assistance to the millions of Americans who are suffering the economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. One source of relief provided by the CARES Act was the authorization of up to $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses for job retention and certain other expenses, through the PPP. In April 2020, Congress authorized over $300 billion in additional PPP funding.
The PPP allows qualifying small businesses and other organizations to receive loans with a maturity of two years and an interest rate of 1 percent. PPP loan proceeds must be used by businesses on payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities. The PPP allows the interest and principal to be forgiven if businesses spend the proceeds on these expenses within a set period and use a certain percentage of the loan towards payroll expenses.
This case was investigated by the FHFA OIG, FDIC OIG, and SBA OIG. Deputy Chief Brian R. Young of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Victor A.S. Régal for the Northern District of Oklahoma are prosecuting the case. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Arkansas provided valuable assistance in this matter.
The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice. Learn more about the history of our agency at www.Justice.gov/Celebrating150Years.
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To meet its urgent needs, DOD had to look beyond traditional acquisition procedures, expand the use of existing processes, and develop new processes and entities designed to be as responsive as possible to urgent warfighter requests. In addition to requests for equipment from DOD's existing stocks, warfighters have requested new capabilities, such as: technology to counter improvised explosive devices (IED); technology related to intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) to provide increased situational awareness; and equipment related to command and control to enhance operations on the battlefield. In meeting urgent needs, it is important for DOD to efficiently use the department's financial resources. DOD has spent billions of dollars over the past several years to address urgent warfighter needs. Our past work on weapons acquisition has shown that the department has often pursued more programs than its resources can support. Additionally, our past work also has shown that DOD has had difficulty translating needs into programs, which often has led to cost growth and delayed delivery of needed capabilities to the warfighter. Today, we are publicly releasing a report that addresses (1) what entities exist within DOD for responding to urgent operational needs, and the extent to which there is fragmentation, overlap, or duplication; (2) the extent to which DOD has a comprehensive approach for managing and overseeing its urgent needs activities; and (3) the extent to which DOD has evaluated the potential for consolidations of its various activities and entities. This statement will first briefly discuss challenges we reported in April 2010 that affected the overall responsiveness of DOD's urgent needs processes and then highlight the key findings and recommendations of today's report. Today's report contributed to our findings in another report being released today that addresses opportunities to reduce potential duplication in government programs.We reported in April 2010 on several challenges that affected DOD's responsiveness to urgent needs: (1) Training: We found challenges in training personnel that process urgent needs requests. For example, we found that while the Army required selected officers to attend training on how to address requirements and identify resources for Army forces, officers at the brigade level responsible for drafting and submitting Army and joint urgent needs requests--and those at the division level responsible for reviewing the requests prior to submission for headquarters approval--were not likely to receive such training.(2) Funding: We found that funding was not always available when needed to acquire and field solutions to joint urgent needs. This result occurred in part because the Office of the Secretary of Defense had not given any one organization primary responsibility for determining when to implement the department's statutory rapid acquisition authority or to execute timely funding decisions. (3) Technical maturity and complexity: We found that attempts to meet urgent needs with immature technologies or with solutions that are technologically complex could lead to longer time frames for fielding solutions to urgent needs. Also, we found that DOD guidance was unclear about who is responsible for determining whether technologically complex solutions fall within the scope of DOD's urgent needs processes. In our report being released today, we identified cases of fragmentation, overlap, and potential duplication of efforts of DOD's urgent needs processes and entities. However, the department is hindered in its ability to identify key improvements to its urgent needs processes because it does not have a comprehensive approach to manage and oversee the breadth of its efforts. Many of these entities were created, in part, because the department had not anticipated the accelerated pace of change in enemy tactics and techniques that ultimately heightened the need for a rapid response to the large number of urgent needs requests submitted by the combatant commands and military services. While many entities started as ad hoc organizations, several have been permanently established. DOD has taken some steps to improve its fulfillment of urgent needs. These steps include developing policy to guide joint urgent need efforts, establishing a Rapid Fielding Directorate to rapidly transition innovative concepts into critical capabilities, and working to establish a senior oversight council to help synchronize DOD's efforts. Despite these actions, the department does not have a comprehensive approach to manage and oversee the breadth of its activities to address capability gaps identified by warfighters in-theater. In addition to not having a comprehensive approach for managing and overseeing its urgent needs efforts, DOD has not conducted a comprehensive evaluation of its urgent needs processes and entities to identify opportunities for consolidation. Given the overlap and potential for duplication we identified, coupled with similar concerns raised by other studies, there may be opportunities for DOD to further improve its urgent needs processes through consolidation. In the report we publicly release today, we make several recommendations to promote a more comprehensive approach to planning, management, and oversight of DOD's fulfillment of urgent needs. In summary, we are recommending that: (1) DOD develop and promulgate DOD-wide guidance across all urgent needs processes that establishes baseline policy for the fulfillment of urgent needs, clearly defines common terms, roles, responsibilities, and authorities, designates a focal point to lead DOD's urgent needs efforts, and directs the DOD components to establish minimum urgent needs processes and requirements; and (2) DOD's Chief Management Officer evaluate potential options for consolidation to reduce overlap, duplication, and fragmentation, and take appropriate action.[Read More…]
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- U.S. Public Diplomacy: State Department and Broadcasting Board of Governors Expand Post-9/11 Efforts but Challenges RemainBy Sam NewsAugust 24, 2021Polls taken in Islamic countries after 9/11 suggested that many or most people had a favorable view of the United States and its fight against terrorism. By 2003, opinion research indicated that foreign publics, especially in countries with large Muslim populations, viewed the United States unfavorably. GAO issued two studies in 2003 that examined (1) changes in U.S. public diplomacy resources and programs since September 11, 2001, within the State Department (State) and the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG); (2) the U.S. government's strategies for its public diplomacy programs and measures of effectiveness; and (3) the challenges that remain in executing U.S. public diplomacy efforts. GAO made several recommendations to State and the BBG to address planning and performance issues. Both agencies agreed with these recommendations and have made some progress in implementing them. On July 22, 2004, the 9/11 Commission released its report and recommendations. Two of the Commission's recommendations relate to the management of U.S. public diplomacy. For this testimony, GAO was asked to discuss its prior work as it relates to these recommendations.Since September 11, 2001, State has expanded its public diplomacy efforts in Muslim-majority countries considered to be of strategic importance in the war on terrorism. It significantly increased resources in South Asia and the Near East and launched new initiatives targeting broader, younger audiences--particularly in predominantly Muslim countries. These initiatives are consistent with the 9/11 Commission's recommendation that the United States rebuild its scholarship, library, and exchange programs overseas. Since 9/11, the BBG has initiated several new programs focused on attracting larger audiences in priority markets, including Radio Sawa and Arabic language television in the Middle East, the Afghanistan Radio Network, and Radio Farda in Iran. The 9/11 Commission report highlights these broadcast efforts and recommends that funding for such efforts be expanded. While State and BBG have increased their efforts to support the war on terrorism, we found that there is no interagency strategy to guide State's, BBG's, and other federal agencies' communication efforts. The absence of such a strategy complicates the task of conveying consistent messages to overseas audiences. Likewise, the 9/11 Commission recommended that the United States do a better job defining its public diplomacy message. In addition, we found that State does not have a strategy that integrates and aligns all its diverse public diplomacy activities. State, noting the need to fix the problem, recently established a new office of strategic planning for public diplomacy. The BBG did have a strategic plan, but the plan lacked a long-term strategic goal or related program objective to gauge the Board's success in increasing audience size, the key focus of its plan. We also found that State and the BBG were not systematically and comprehensively measuring progress toward the goals of reaching broader audiences and increasing publics' understanding about the United States. The BBG subsequently made audience size a key performance goal and added broadcaster credibility and plans to add other performance measures that GAO recommended. In addition, State and BBG face several internal challenges in carrying out their programs. Challenges at State include insufficient public diplomacy resources and a lack of officers with foreign language proficiency. State officials are trying to address staffing gaps through increased recruitment. The BBG also faces a number of media market, organizational, and resource challenges that may hamper its efforts to generate large audiences in priority markets. It has developed a number of solutions to address these challenges.[Read More…]
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- Depot Maintenance: Improved Strategic Planning Needed to Ensure That Army and Marine Corps Depots Can Meet Future Maintenance RequirementsBy Sam NewsAugust 24, 2021The Army and Marine Corps maintenance depots provide critical support to ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and are heavily involved in efforts to reset the force. The Department of Defense (DOD) has an interest in ensuring that the depots remain operationally effective, efficient, and capable of meeting future maintenance requirements. In 2008, in response to direction by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), the Army and the Marine Corps each submitted a depot maintenance strategic plan. Our objective was to evaluate the extent to which these plans provide comprehensive strategies for meeting future depot maintenance requirements. GAO determined whether the plans were consistent with the criteria for developing a results-oriented management framework and fully addressed OSD's criteria.The depot maintenance strategic plans developed by the Army and Marine Corps identify key issues affecting the depots, but do not provide assurance that the depots will be postured and resourced to meet future maintenance requirements because they do not fully address all of the elements required for a comprehensive, results-oriented management framework. Nor are they fully responsive to OSD's direction for developing the plans. While the services' strategic plans contain mission statements, along with long-term goals and objectives, they do not fully address all the elements needed for sound strategic planning, such as external factors that may affect how goals and objectives will be accomplished, performance indicators or metrics that measure outcomes and gauge progress, and resources required to meet the goals and objectives. Also, the plans partially address four issues that OSD directed the services, at a minimum, to include in their plans, such as logistics transformation, core logistics capability assurance, workforce revitalization, and capital investment. Army and Marine Corps officials involved with the development of the service strategic plans acknowledged that their plans do not fully address the OSD criteria, but they stated that the plans nevertheless address issues they believe are critical to maintaining effective, long-term depot maintenance capabilities. The Army's and Marine Corps' plans also are not comprehensive because they do not provide strategies for mitigating and reducing uncertainties in future workloads that affect the depots' ability to plan for meeting future maintenance requirements. Such uncertainties stem primarily from a lack of information on (1) workload that will replace current work on existing systems, which is expected to decline, and (2) workload associated with new systems that are in the acquisition pipeline. According to depot officials, to effectively plan for future maintenance requirements, the depots need timely and reliable information from their major commands on both the amounts and types of workloads they should expect to receive in future years. Depot officials told us that the information they receive from their major commands on their future workloads are uncertain beyond the current fiscal year. Officials cited various factors that contribute to these uncertainties, such as volatility in workload requirements, changing wartime environment, budget instability, and unanticipated changes in customer orders. In addition, depot officials said that they are not involved in the sustainment portion of the life cycle management planning process for new and modified systems. No clear process exists that would enable them to have input into weapon system program managers' decisions on how and where new and modified systems will be supported and maintained in the future. Unless they are integrated in this planning process, these officials said, the depots will continue to have uncertainties about what capabilities they will need to plan for future workloads and what other resources they will need to support new and modified weapon systems.[Read More…]
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- Defense Health Care: Oversight of Military Services’ Post-Deployment Health Reassessment Completion Rates Is LimitedBy Sam NewsAugust 25, 2021Military servicemembers engaged in combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq are at risk of developing combat-related mental health conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In many cases, signs of potential mental health conditions do not surface until months after servicemembers return from deployment. In 2004, Army researchers published a series of articles that indicated a significant increase in the number of servicemembers reporting mental health concerns 90 to 120 days after returning from deployment, compared with mental health concerns reported before or soon after deployment. These findings led the Department of Defense (DOD) in March 2005 to develop requirements and policies for the post-deployment health reassessment (PDHRA) as part of its continuum of deployment health assessments for servicemembers. PDHRA is a screening tool for military servicemembers; it is designed to identify and address their health concerns--including mental health concerns--90 to 180 days after return from deployment. Servicemembers answer a set of questions about their physical and mental health conditions and concerns, and health care providers review the answers and refer servicemembers for further evaluation and treatment if necessary. A November 2007 study showed that a larger number of servicemembers indicated mental health concerns on their PDHRAs than on assessments earlier in their deployment cycles. Although DOD established PDHRA requirements and policies, it gave the military services discretion to implement them to meet their unique needs as long as the services adhere to the requirements and policies. DOD oversees the military services' compliance with PDHRA requirements through its deployment health assessment quality assurance program and is required to report on the quality assurance program annually to the Armed Services Committees of the House of Representatives and Senate. In June 2007, we reported that DOD's oversight of its deployment health assessments does not provide DOD or Congress with the information needed to evaluate DOD and the military services' compliance with deployment health assessment requirements. That report is part of a body of work in which we identified weaknesses in DOD's quality assurance program. The Senate Committee on Armed Services directed us to review DOD's oversight of PDHRA, and the House Committee on Armed Services and 11 senators also expressed interest in this work. In this report, we focus on how DOD ensures that servicemembers complete the PDHRA. Specifically, we discuss how well DOD's quality assurance program oversees the military services' compliance with the requirement that they ensure that servicemembers complete the PDHRA.DOD's quality assurance program has limitations and does not allow the department to accurately assess whether the military services ensure that servicemembers complete the PDHRA. DOD's quality assurance program relies on quarterly reports from each military service, monthly reports from AFHSC, and site visits to military installations to oversee the military services' compliance with deployment health assessment requirements, including completion of PDHRA. Each of these sources of information has limitations. The military services' quarterly reports and the monthly reports from AFHSC do not provide the information DOD needs to accurately assess the military services' PDHRA completion rates, which would allow DOD to determine if the military services have ensured that servicemembers completed the PDHRA. These reports do not allow DOD to calculate a completion rate because they do not provide essential information, such as the total number of servicemembers who returned from deployment and should have completed the PDHRA in that quarter or month. Furthermore, DOD cannot use information collected from site visits to validate the services' quarterly reports because the small number of site visits constitutes an insufficient sample for validation purposes. In our 2007 report, we recommended that DOD make enhancements to its quality assurance program, which would allow the department to better evaluate compliance with deployment health requirements. Although DOD concurred with the recommendation included in the 2007 report, as of June 2008, the department had not implemented the recommendation. As a result, DOD's quality assurance program cannot provide decision makers with reasonable assurance that servicemembers complete PDHRA. Overall, DOD concurred with our report's findings and conclusions; however, DOD identified several items in the report that it addressed in written comments. DOD suggested that the function of oversight is beyond the scope of the quality assurance program. Additionally, DOD commented that the department is taking steps that it believes will resolve some of the issues we note in this report. However, DOD did not provide us with relevant details or evidence pertaining to these efforts. We believe that oversight is an essential function of the quality assurance program and that the program currently does not receive the information necessary to perform this function.[Read More…]
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