Business loan

Man pleads guilty to abusing pandemic relief business loan

STARKVILLE, Mississippi (AP) — A Mississippi man pleaded guilty Monday to a federal wire fraud charge for misusing more than $6 million in business loans under a pandemic relief program, prosecutors said.

Rather than using the money for his businesses, Christopher Paul Lick admitted to using it for personal stock market investments and buying a home valued at more than $1 million, according to a press release from Clay Joyner, the American lawyer from northern Mississippi.

Lick, 47, of Starkville, filed fraudulent loan applications with banks that provided loans under the Paycheck Protection Program, court records show.

Records show Lick owned and operated four companies, including Aspen River Candle Co., based in Columbus, Mississippi. Joyner said Lick admitted to overestimating the number of employees and salary expenses to receive money.

The Paycheck Protection Program loans were guaranteed by the Small Business Administration under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

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“The CARES Act loan programs were intended to help small businesses and families struggling to survive during a difficult pandemic,” Joyner said. “Unfortunately, far too many people like the defendant have abused these programs for their own personal gain.”

Lick pleaded guilty the day he was due to stand trial. He faces up to 30 years in prison, with sentencing set for August 12 before US Senior District Judge Glen Davidson.

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