A Norway man has been charged with fraudulently obtaining more than $150,000 from federal programs designed to help businesses to operate, including pay employees, during the early days of the pandemic.
Merton E. Weed Jr., 50, pleaded not guilty Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Portland to four counts of wire fraud and one count of HUD fraud.
Weed is the fourth Maine resident to be charged with fraud related to pandemic funds.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen Frink Wolf ordered that Weed be released on $20,000 cash unsecured bail. Weed will only have to post the bail if he failed to appear for a court appearance or violates bail conditions. Those conditions include that Weed not apply for any government loans.
Weed allegedly spent the money on personal expenses, but the indictment did not specify what he purchased.
Weed, who previously lived in Belfast, allegedly lied about the number of employees and falsified a monthly payroll to receive money from the Payroll Protection Program run by the Small Business Administration. The money was transferred to his bank accounts electronically, the indictment said.
The charge relating to the U.S. Housing and Urban Development stemmed from Weed’s alleged attempt to get money to pay interest on a mortgage. He lied about working for a business he had not worked at since 2016, the indictment said.
Weed’s attorney Luke Rioux of Portland did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It is the practice of the U.S. attorney’s office, which is prosecuting the case, not to comment on pending cases.
If convicted, Weed faces up to 20 years in prison on the wire fraud charges and up to two years in prison on the HUD fraud charge. He also could be ordered to pay fines and restitution.
Last month, Mark X. Haley II, 42, of Rockport pleaded guilty in federal court in Portland to fraudulently obtaining more than $1 million in PPP loans. His sentencing date has not been set.
Craig Franck, 40, of Levant was sentenced last month to 33 months in federal prison for using more than $300,000 from two loan programs authorized by Congress during the COVID-19 pandemic for bail on a theft charge in Florida. He also bought exercise equipment, a telescope, a big screen television, a drone and two trucks, among other expenses, with the money.
Franck pleaded guilty to three counts of wire fraud and one count of money laundering. He is incarcerated at a federal detention center in Brooklyn, New York, according to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons website.
Nathan Reardon, the first person in Maine to be charged and convicted of fraudulently obtaining funds from a pandemic relief program, is serving a 20-month sentence at the United States Penitentiary Canaan in Waymart, Pennsylvania, according to the bureau of prisons inmate locator. His earliest possible release date is Aug. 31.
Reardon, 44, of Skowhegan and Plymouth pleaded guilty in July in federal court in Bangor to five counts of bank fraud for obtaining a $60,000 Paycheck Protection Program loan in 2020 by falsifying information about payroll for his business.
In addition to prison time, Reardon was sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered to pay more than $60,000 in restitution.