North Chili man convicted by a federal jury of 37 counts of COVID relief fraud


Date: November 22, 2022


Rochester, NY — U.S. Attorney Trini E. Ross announced today that a federal jury has convicted Michael Rech, of North Chili, New York, of 37 counts of bank fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a fine of $500,000.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Meghan K. McGuire and Sean C. Eldridge, who handled the prosecution of the case, stated that Rech was the Director, President, and CEO of Guardian of Humanity, Inc., a nonprofit corporation, as well as the sole member of Eclipse, a limited liability company. Rech applied for eight different Payroll Protection Program loans, fraudulently claiming that Guardian and Eclipse had employees and that he had been paying wages to these employees, which qualified him for the PPP loans. In total, he attempted to obtain over $880,000 in PPP funds. Subsequent investigation revealed that Rech's companies did not have any employees and did not pay wages to anyone. Rech himself was unemployed and collecting unemployment benefits from the State of New York at the time.

Rech received three PPP loans totaling approximately $277,500. Once he received the loans, Rech took the money out of the bank in amounts less than $10,000 to avoid federal reporting requirements. The Internal Revenue Service recovered all of the funds from two safes in Rech's home and a bank account that Rech had sole control over. As a result of the trial, all $277,500 was forfeited back to the government.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act is a federal law enacted March 29, 2020. It is designed to provide emergency financial assistance to millions of Americans who are suffering the economic effects resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. One source of relief provided by the CARES Act is the authorization of up to $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses for job retention and certain other expenses through the PPP. In April 2020, Congress authorized over $300 billion in additional PPP funding.

The PPP allows qualifying small businesses and other organizations to receive loans with a maturity of two years and an interest rate of one percent. Businesses must use PPP loan proceeds for payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent and utilities. The PPP allows the interest and principal to be forgiven if businesses spend the proceeds on these expenses within a set time period and use at least a certain percentage of the loan towards payroll expenses.

The verdict is the result of an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division, under the direction of Thomas Fattorusso, Special Agent-in-Charge, New York Field Office, Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Matthew Scarpino, the Monroe County Sheriff's Office, under the direction of Sheriff Todd Baxter, and the Small Business Administration.

Sentencing is scheduled for March 27, 2023, at 9:30 a.m. before U.S. District Judge Charles J. Siragusa, who presided over the trial of the case.