West Roxbury man pleads guilty to fraudulently obtaining COVID relief funds


Date: May 17, 2024

Contact: newsroom@ci.irs.gov

BOSTON — A West Roxbury man pleaded guilty on May 15, 2024 in federal court in Boston to a fraud charge in connection with a scheme to fraudulently obtain pandemic-related relief funds from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

Donovan Scarlett pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud. U.S. District Court Judge Denise J. Casper scheduled sentencing for Sept. 5, 2024.

Scarlett was charged and arrested in February 2024 along with over 40 alleged Heath Street Gang members/associates, who were charged with racketeering conspiracy; drug trafficking; firearms charges; and financial frauds, including COVID-related fraud.

In March 2021, Scarlett submitted a fraudulent PPP loan application on behalf of his purported business. The fraudulent PPP loan application contained multiple false statements, including false representations regarding the purported business’s total gross income in 2020 and Scarlett’s criminal history. Scarlett also submitted false tax records in support of his loan application. Based on the fraudulent application, Scarlett received approximately $13,600 which he spent on non-business-related expenses.

The CARES Act created a temporary loan program directed at small businesses called the PPP. PPP loans were processed by private financial institutions and fully guaranteed by the U.S. Small Business Administration. If the small business used the loan funds for approved purposes, such as payroll, the loan could be forgiven by the financial institution and paid for by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The charge of wire fraud provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, up to three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and statutes which govern the determination of a sentence in a criminal case.

Acting United States Attorney Joshua S. Levy; Harry T. Chavis Jr, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (CI); Boston Police Commissioner Michael Cox; and Jonathan Mellone, Special Agent in Charge of Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sarah Hoefle and Lucy Sun of the Organized Crime & Gang Unit are prosecuting the case.

This effort is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach.

On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. The Task Force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud by, among other methods, augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts.

CI is the criminal investigative arm of the IRS, responsible for conducting financial crime investigations, including tax fraud, narcotics trafficking, money-laundering, public corruption, healthcare fraud, identity theft and more. CI special agents are the only federal law enforcement agents with investigative jurisdiction over violations of the Internal Revenue Code, obtaining a more than a 90 percent federal conviction rate. The agency has 20 field offices located across the U.S. and 12 attaché posts abroad.