KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — James Waylon Howell will spend 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to filing more than $150,000 in CARES Act loans and money laundering.

Howell, 39, was sentenced Thursday, Jan. 13, in United States District Court. He pled guilty in September.

“While businesses were suffering and trying their best to make it through the pandemic, others chose greed,” said Assistant Special Agent in Charge of IRS-Criminal Investigation Brian Thomas. “IRS-CI will continue to use its financial expertise to track and recommend prosecution of criminals taking advantage of a crisis.”

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act was enacted in March 2020 to provide emergency financial assistance to the millions of Americans suffering the economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two primary sources of relief provided by the CARES Act were the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. PPP loans consisted of more than $640 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses for payroll, mortgage interest, rent and utilities. The EIDL program provided low-interest loans to business owners to pay for items like accounts payable and other bills that could not be paid as
a result of COVID-19.

Howell admitted to applying for four loans from the two programs. Howell submitted false and fraudulent applications under the names of two companies that did not qualify for COVID-19 relief funds.

“This prosecution highlights the Department of Justice’s commitment to aggressively prosecute those who have defrauded these important programs enacted to provide economic relief to those who have suffered financially as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said U.S. attorney Francis M. Hamilton III. “Fortunately, the quick and capable work of our federal partners permitted the recovery of a substantial amount of stolen funds.