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Levy County businessman sentenced to federal prison for defrauding $8M in SBA COVID loans

Gainesville WCJB-TV logo Gainesville WCJB-TV 1/31/2023 Ryan Turbeville
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - A businessman from Williston is sentenced to more than 5 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to defrauding the Small Business Administration to obtain COVID-related loans.

Patrick Parker Walsh, 42, of Williston, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering in connection to COVID-19 pandemic relief. His brother-in-law former Rep. Joe Harding is facing similar charges.

Prosecutors say Walsh submitted fraudulent applications for Paycheck Protection Program loans in the names of multiple businesses, including his blimp companies which were headquartered in Levy County. The applications had incorrect records regarding the number of employees for businesses. He also applied for money for companies that were not created until after the pandemic began.

He also submitted fraudulent applications for Economic Injury Disaster Loans in his name and his wife’s name. In total, he defrauded the Small Business Administration of more than $7.8 million. Walsh used the money to buy real estate in Florida and Texas, to buy oil leases, and to pay off his mortgage loans.

On Tuesday, Walsh was sentenced to 66 months in federal prison, 3 years of supervised release, and was ordered to repay all the money he took from the taxpayer.

“Patrick Walsh abused a program that was designed to ease suffering caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Sherri E. Onks, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Jacksonville Division. “Instead of using millions of dollars in federal funds to help keep struggling businesses afloat and honest workers employed, he selfishly diverted it for his own personal gain. The FBI will hold accountable anyone who takes advantage of those in need during a national emergency, and we remain committed to working with our partners to ensure fraudsters are brought.”

RELATED: Former NCFL lawmaker Joe Harding could face wire fraud trial in May

His brother-in-law Harding was charged with wire fraud, money laundering, and making false statements. He resigned from the state House on Dec. 8 after being indicted on charges that he fraudulently obtained coronavirus-related business loans.

“The defendant, in this case, was brought to justice for exploiting Federal relief programs and using the obtained funds for his personal gain,” said Special Agent in Charge Kyle A. Myles, of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Office of Inspector General. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to hold those accountable who take advantage of such programs and undermine the integrity of our Nation’s banking system.”

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