Three weeks after being accused of attempting to fraudulently obtain Covid-19 relief loans, David A. Staveley escaped by faking his own suicide, prosecutors said.
He cut off his electronic surveillance bracelet and left suicide notes for friends and family, including his 80-year-old mother, prosecutors said. He also left his wallet and a suicide note in his unlocked car, which he parked by the ocean in Massachusetts, federal prosecutors said.
Many in his family believed he had committed suicide, although “those who knew him best informed law enforcement that they suspected it was another ploy orchestrated by” Mr. Staveley, prosecutors wrote in a court file.
On Thursday, Mr. Staveley, 54, of Andover, Massachusetts, was sentenced to 56 months in prison. He had pleaded guilty in May to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and one count of not appearing in court, prosecutors said.
In May 2020, Mr Staveley and an associate became the first people in the country to be accused of fraudulently soliciting loans under the Paycheck Protection Program, which aimed to help small businesses crushed by the pandemic, according to the US Department of Justice.
Since then, the program has been the target of several fraudulent schemes. The ministry reported in March that at least 120 people had been charged with program-related fraud. A recent academic working paper estimated that about $ 76 billion of the program’s $ 800 billion in loans may have been taken out inappropriately.
Prosecutors said Mr Staveley and his partner, David A. Butziger, 53, of Warwick, RI, attempted to defraud the program by submitting fraudulent claims for $ 543,959 in forgivable loans for restaurants that don’t were not in business and, in one case, in which Mr. Staveley had no ownership interest.
Although Mr Staveley was ultimately thwarted in his attempt to secure funds from paycheck protection, “there is no doubt that his intention, at the very onset of the pandemic, was to exploit the national crisis at its advantage, “the prosectors wrote in a court record.
Mr. Butziger is to be sentenced on November 1.
Lawyers for Mr Staveley did not immediately respond to the messages on Saturday. One of them, Jason Knight, had asked the court for compassion, claiming Mr Staveley suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder which could be triggered by incarceration, WJAR reported.
Mr Staveley’s mother, Judith Sanborn, said she would help her son become a productive citizen again, the TV station reported. “He paid dearly for his mistakes,” she said.
Mr Staveley staged his suicide on May 26, 2020, prosecutors said, and was arrested by U.S. marshals on July 23, 2020 in Alpharetta, Georgia. While on the run, he changed his phone number at least five times and used false identities and stolen license plates, prosecutors said.
The manhunt wasted law enforcement resources, prosecutors said. After Mr Staveley’s car was found near the ocean in Massachusetts, authorities sent a search and rescue boat through the water to search for his body, prosecutors said.
US marshals also “worked tirelessly” to locate Mr Staveley, prosecutors wrote, even when there was “uncertainty as to whether Staveley had actually committed suicide.”
Prosecutors said Mr Staveley tried to “explain” his decision to cut his electronic monitoring bracelet by blaming Mr Butziger. Mr Staveley claimed, according to prosecutors, that Mr Butziger told him to remove the bracelet and “drive south.”
Mr Staveley “simply seems unable to take full responsibility for his own life choices,” prosecutors wrote. “No one forced him to defraud the government in the midst of a national crisis. No one forced him to stage his own suicide and run away.