October 2, 2020
Fraud Friday – Company Poses as SBA Lender to Prey on Small Businesses
Ponte Investments and its owner, John C. Ponte, were among eight companies charged by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for misleading small businesses into thinking that they had an affiliation with the SBA and that they could offer small businesses access to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
Using the business name “SBA Loan Program,” Ponte and his company allegedly called and emailed desperate small businesses claiming to be a representative of the SBA and urging them to apply for a loan with their bank.
“SBA Loan Program” also directed small business owners to their website, SBALoanProgram.com, which made the statements: “WE ARE A DIRECT LENDER FOR THE PPP PROGRAM!” and “We are currently offering stimulus relief spending under the Economic Security Act (Cares Act).” At the bottom of the page beyond a PPP application “Submit” button, fine-print text, in faint grey typeface allegedly stated: “We are not the US Government, If you
wish to apply for a Disaster Relief Loan follow this link to the SBA website www.sba.gov/disaster.” However, Even if a victim small business located this text, the language did not disclose that “SBA Loan Program” was not an authorized SBA lender.
The SBA issued a cease and desist letter to “SBA Loan Program” on April 10th. However, Ponte’s company continued to collect thousands of applications for PPP loans that were never submitted to the SBA.
Although Ponte never admitted to the claims made in the FTC’s Complaint, at the end of June he signed a settlement, agreeing to stop misrepresenting that his company is authorized to accept or process applications for SBA loans and that he is an SBA employee. The settlement also bars Ponte from disclosing, using, or benefiting from information collected in connection with the scheme.