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Man pleads guilty to misusing pandemic relief business loan

May 16, 2022 GMT

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

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

Lick, 47, of Starkville, filed fraudulent loan applications to banks that were providing loans as part of the Paycheck Protection Program, according to court records.

The records show Lick owned and managed four companies, including Aspen River Candle Co., based in Columbus, Mississippi. Joyner said Lick admitted overstating the number of employees and payroll expenses to receive money.

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 individuals like the defendant abused these programs for their own personal benefit.”

Lick entered the guilty plea on the day he had once been scheduled to go on trial. He faces up to 30 years in prison, with sentencing set for Aug. 12 before Senior U.S. District Judge Glen Davidson.