Massachusetts monk arrested in alleged $3.6 million government aid fraud scheme – Fall River Reporter

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BOSTON – A Massachusetts man and woman were arrested today in connection with their alleged submission of fraudulent applications for CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act) funds for several purported religious nonprofit organizations and related businesses they controlled.

Brian Andrew Bushell, 47, and Tracey MA Stockton, 64, of Marblehead, have been charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and illegal money transactions. Bushell and Stockton will appear in federal court in Boston today at 1:15 p.m.

According to the charging documents, Bushell – an alleged Orthodox Christian monk who introduced himself as “Father” and “Rev. Father.” Bushell or Andrew – controlled several organizations based in Marblehead, including an Orthodox Christian charitable foundation (St. Paul’s Foundation); a “monastic house” (shrine of St. Nicholas the Wonderful, patron saint of sailors, brewers and repentant thieves) a purported residence for the clergy (House of the Annunciation); a monastic brewery (Marblehead Brewing Co.); and an artisanal saltworks (Marblehead Salt Co.). Stockton, a Massachusetts attorney, served as general counsel and authorized representative Bushell and Stockton resided together in a residence in Marblehead which they called Annunciation House.

Shortly after CARES Act funds became available in April 2020, Bushell, with help from Stockton, reportedly began submitting numerous applications to the Small Business Administration (SBA) to receive disaster loans. (EIDL) for the organizations he controlled. It is alleged that in the applications, Bushell grossly overestimated the organizations operating expenses in 2019 in an effort to obtain larger loan amounts. In support of the SBA applications, Bushell and Stockton allegedly submitted false documents, such as tax returns, which fabricated the organizations’ income and expenses. As a result of their alleged misrepresentations on these applications and in subsequent loan increase applications, Bushell and Stockton obtained $3.5 million in EIDL funds for St. Paul’s, St. Nicholas, Annunciation House and Marblehead Salt .

According to billing documents, Bushell and Stockton also submitted numerous requests for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds for Bushell’s organizations. In supporting documents to applications as well as in correspondence with PPP lenders, Bushell and Stockton allegedly inflated the number of employees and the amount of salary expenditures for each borrowing organization. For example, with respect to several claims, it is alleged that Bushell and Stockton listed, as employees, at least eight people who were never employed by any of Bushell’s organizations. As a result of their misrepresentations on these requests and related submissions, Bushell and Stockton obtained an additional $146,608 in PPP funds.

“We allege that these two individuals engaged in brazen criminal behavior that took advantage of our government’s efforts to rescue organizations – for-profit and non-profit – by assisting with specific and legitimate expenses during the global pandemic. “said the United States Attorney. Rachel S. Rollins. “Pandemic relief funds aren’t ‘free money’ – they’re a lifeline designed to help business owners and nonprofit leaders in real trouble. Our government should not and will not foot the bill for luxury designer handbags and lavish lifestyles Hard working people deserve these funds.

“Today we arrested an alleged Orthodox Christian monk and his lawyer for embezzling millions of dollars in federal emergency aid from businesses struggling to survive, to line their pockets for their own personal enrichment. We believe that they clearly knew what they were doing was wrong, but they did it anyway, spending tens of thousands of dollars on exclusive memberships, expensive wine, property, renovations and even a wristwatch of $40,000,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division. “Their alleged greed is an affront to all hard-working taxpayers, and in these trying times when crooks do everything what they can to scam people out of their hard-earned money, the FBI is doing everything they can to make sure they don’t. to succeed.”

“The VA Office of Inspector General is a proud partner of the PRAC Fraud Task Force,” said Special Agent in Charge Christopher Algieri of the Office of Inspector General’s Northeast Field Office. of the VA. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to investigate allegations of fraud in government programs intended to help those affected by the pandemic.”

Billing documents allege that, after receiving EIDL and PPP funds, Bushell and Stockton used those funds for expenses that would not have been authorized under either program, even though the funds were obtained legally. Specifically, Bushell and Stockton reportedly spent more than $1 million of CARES Act proceeds on extensive renovations to two Marblehead properties they planned to turn into a monastic complex including a chapel, brewery, cafe outdoors, approximately $90,000 in audio video system equipment and nearly $40,000. in antique furniture. They also purchased a new residential property and various fixtures, furniture and equipment for their various properties. Bushell, who claimed to have taken a vow of poverty, also allegedly used fraudulently obtained CARES Act funds to purchase more than $40,000 worth of Swiss watches, a nearly $7,000 Goyard designer handbag for Stockton, 2,400 $ of Hermès items and other luxury goods.

The conspiracy to commit wire fraud charge carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000, or double the gross gain or loss of the scheme , whichever is greater. The conspiracy to commit illegal monetary transactions charge carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, three years of probation and a fine of $250,000, which is double the value of the original property. criminal. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based on US sentencing guidelines and the laws that govern sentencing in a criminal case.

US Attorney Rollins, FBI SAC Bonavolonta and VA-OIG SAC Algieri made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorney David M. Holcomb of Rollins’ Securities, Finance, and Cyber ​​Fraud Unit and Assistant U.S. Attorney Carol Head, head of Rollins’ Asset Recovery Unit, are suing the affair.

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