Three weeks after he had been charged with trying to fraudulently obtain Covid-19 relief loans, David A. Staveley escaped by faking his own suicide, prosecutors said.
He cut off his electronic monitoring bracelet and left suicide notes with friends and family members, 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 of his family members believed he had died by suicide, although “the ones who knew him best informed law enforcement that they suspected this to be yet another scheme orchestrated by” Mr. Staveley, prosecutors wrote in a court filing.
On Thursday, Mr. Staveley, 54, of Andover, Mass., 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 failing to appear in court, prosecutors said.
the first people in the country to be charged with fraudulently seeking loans under the Paycheck Protection Program, which was intended to help small businesses crushed by the pandemic, according to the U.S. Justice Department.
Since then, the program has been repeatedly targeted by fraud schemes. The department reported in March that at least 120 people had been charged with fraud connected to the program. A recent academic working paper estimated that about $76 billion of the program’s $800 billion in loans might have been taken improperly.
Prosecutors said that Mr. Staveley and his associate, David A. Butziger, 53, of Warwick, R.I., had tried to defraud the program by submitting fraudulent applications for $543,959 in forgivable loans for restaurants that were not in business and, in one instance, in which Mr. Staveley had no ownership interest.
Although Mr. Staveley was ultimately thwarted in his attempt to obtain Paycheck Protection funds, “there can be no question that his intention, at the very beginning of the pandemic, was to exploit the national crisis for his own advantage,” prosectors wrote in a court filing.
Mr. Butziger is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 1.
Mr. Staveley’s lawyers did not immediately respond to messages on Saturday. One of them, Jason Knight, had asked the court for compassion, saying that Mr. Staveley had post-traumatic stress disorder that could be triggered by incarceration, WJAR reported.