Tennessee Man Gets 60-Plus Months In Prison For Covid Relief Fraud

OXFORD, Miss. (AP) — A Tennessee man was sentenced Tuesday to more than five years in prison for his role in a scheme to defraud the Small Business Administration during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic by submitting fake loan applications and ultimately receiving more than $11 million.

Norman Beckwood, 29, of Memphis, entered a guilty plea to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, the U.S. Attorney's Office for Mississippi's Northern District said in a news release. U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock then sentenced Beckwood to 62 months in prison followed by five years of supervised release. He also was ordered to pay $10,620,452 in restitution to the Small Business Administration, the office said.

In addition, Beckwood also forfeited more than $700,000 in cash and two luxury vehicles.

According to court documents, Beckwood recruited people to submit fraudulent loan applications to the federal agency. Beckwood and his co-conspirator, Lakeith Faulkner, who worked for the Small Business Administration, helped submit over $11 million in loans, the news release said. In return, the borrowers paid Beckwood and Faulkner $2.3 million, federal prosecutors said.

Twenty-one borrowers have also been charged in connection with the scheme.

“Norman Beckwood and his cohorts stole millions of dollars from American taxpayers while taking advantage of programs designed to help keep businesses afloat during a national crisis,” U.S. Attorney Clay Joyner said. “Our office will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to bring those who committed pandemic benefit fraud to justice and will use all available tools to recover the stolen funds.”