☷Camden County Resident Sentenced to 41 Months in Prison for Defrauding COVID 19 Relief Programs and Illegally Possessing Firearm
Federal Bureau of Investigation ( By Press Release office)
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Camden County Resident Sentenced to 41 Months in Prison for Defrauding COVID - 19 Relief Programs and Illegally Possessing Firearm CAMDEN , N . J . – A Camden County , New Jersey , resident was sentenced to 41 months in prison for his role in fraudulently obtaining Paycheck Protection Program ( PPP ) and Economic Injury Disaster Loans ( EIDL ) benefits , fraudulently obtaining unemployment benefits , and illegally possessing a firearm , U . S . Attorney Philip R . Sellinger announced today . Stephen Bennett , 46 , of Berlin , New Jersey , previously pleaded guilty before U . S . District Judge Karen M . Williams to an information charging him with one count of bank fraud conspiracy , one count of wire fraud , and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm . Judge Williams imposed the sentence on Nov . 21 , 2022 , in Camden federal court . According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:In 2020 , Bennett conspired with Rhonda Thomas , 38 , of Sicklerville , New Jersey , to submit one PPP application and one EIDL application for a company controlled by Bennett . The applications stated that the company had 16 employees , gross revenues of $1 . 73 million , and an average monthly payroll of $144 , 000 , when in fact the company had no employees , revenue , or payroll . Bennett and Thomas also submitted forged tax forms and altered bank statements as part of the PPP loan application . Based on the misrepresentations , the loans were approved in the amount of $510 , 000 . Bennett paid kickbacks of over $150 , 000 to Thomas and used the rest of the fraudulently obtained PPP and EIDL loan proceeds to pay for personal expenses . Also in 2020 , Bennett defrauded the Pennsylvania Department of Labor by submitting 74 unemployment insurance claims under a temporary federal unemployment insurance program that provided benefits for individuals who were not eligible for other types of unemployment , such those who were self - employed , independent contractors or gig economy workers . Bennett collected personal identification information ( PII ) , including names , residential addresses , and Social Security numbers , of other individuals and used the PII to submit fraudulent applications for unemployment benefits , resulting in the payment of $425 , 339 in benefits to Bennett . In May 2021 , law enforcement officials executing a search warrant at Bennett’s home found a . 9 millimeter semiautomatic pistol with no serial number ( commonly referred to as a “ghost gun” ) and a magazine loaded with 16 rounds of ammunition . Bennett is a previously convicted felon . In addition to the prison term , Judge Williams sentenced Bennett to five years of supervised release , fined him $15 , 000 , and ordered him to pay restitution of $942 , 141 . Thomas pleaded pleaded guilty before Judge Williams on June 28 , 2022 , to an information charging her with one count of bank fraud conspiracy and one count of money laundering and is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec . 16 , 2022 . U . S . Attorney Sellinger credited special agents of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation – Office of Inspector General , under the direction of Patricia Tarasca , Special Agent - in - Charge , New York Regional Office , special agents of the Social Security Administration , Office of the Inspector General , New York Field Division , under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Sharon MacDermott; special agents of the FBI’s South Jersey Resident Agency , under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Jacqueline Maguire in Philadelphia , special agents of the U . S . Department of Labor , Office of Inspector General , New York Region , under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Jonathan Mellone , with the investigation leading to today’s sentencing . The government is represented by Assistant U . S . Attorney Daniel A . Friedman and Jason M . Richardson , Attorney in Charge of the U . S . Attorney’s Office’s Criminal Division in Camden .
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