Business/Economy

Anchorage business owner agrees to pay $400K over fraudulent CARES Act loans, federal prosecutors say

An Anchorage business owner has agreed to pay $397,990 after fraudulently obtaining loans through a federal pandemic relief program, federal prosecutors said Friday.

Robert Gross, 65, submitted false information for six companies he owned to obtain loans and advances from the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program between April and September 2020, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska said.

As part of the civil settlement agreement, Gross must repay the outstanding loan balances, plus interest, as well as pay $242,990 in damages. Under a criminal non-prosecution agreement, Gross also admitted to the making the false statements and agreed to terms in place of a criminal prosecution, federal prosecutors said.

The agreements help resolve a federal investigation into $164,000 in loans and advances that Gross received under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

Congress passed the CARES Act on March 27, 2020. It contained provisions to assist struggling small-business owners during times of economic hardship inflicted by the pandemic, and it added more funds to the EIDL program.

“During a global pandemic, the defendant took advantage of aid programs designed as a lifeline providing critical relief for hardworking people in our communities impacted by COVID,” said Bryan Wilson, acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Alaska, in a statement.

The settlement agreement contends that Gross received the funding because of false claims he submitted and that he would not have otherwise received the money.

Settlement documents outlined how Gross allegedly misrepresented revenue and falsely stated how many employees each of the companies had in applications for the funds.

“Making false statements to fraudulently gain access to SBA program funds is deplorable,” said Weston Kind, the Small Business Administration Office of Inspector General’s Western Region special agent in charge.

Neither Gross nor the attorney listed for Gross in the settlement agreement could immediately be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

“While small businesses across the nation, including here in Alaska, continue to suffer due to the ongoing pandemic, the defendant chose to exploit the relief programs designed to help businesses in time of need,” Special Agent in Charge Antony Jung of the FBI’s Anchorage field office said in a statement.

The settlement documents said that in April 2020, Gross applied to the program on behalf of the limited liability company Bistro IT for a $150,000 loan, saying the company hadn’t applied for other federal funds under the CARES Act — which was not the case.

In April, Gross also submitted applications for Glacier State Services Inc., stating the corporation had one employee when in reality the company hadn’t paid any wages and Gross was the employee, according to the settlement documents. Gross also misrepresented the corporation’s revenue, settlement documents said.

Three days after submitting the two applications, Gross then submitted a loan application for RB Enterprises LLC, falsely saying the company had two employees “when it had paid no wages and Bob Gross and his spouse were the ‘employees,’ ” settlement documents said.

In mid-April, Gross applied to the program for Meritage Management Company LLC and received an advance of $2,000, but while the company had certified there were two employees, the employees were actually Gross and his co-owner and Meritage hadn’t paid out any wages, settlement documents said.

Additionally, AK Denali Group LLC received a $1,000 loan and a $2,000 advance after Gross in April misrepresented revenue and stated it had two employees when Gross and his spouse were the employees, according to the settlement.

The settlement agreement said 32 Mile Investments LLC also received a $2,000 advance after Gross in April falsely stated how many employees the company had and misrepresented its revenue in an application to the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program.

The settlement agreement was fully executed in early October 2021.

Morgan Krakow

Morgan Krakow is a general assignment reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. She is a 2019 graduate of the University of Oregon and spent the summer of 2019 as a reporting intern on the general assignment desk of The Washington Post. Contact her at mkrakow@adn.com.

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