July 24, 2020
By Caity Witucki
Contributing Editor, Fraud Friday
Fraud Friday — Texas Man uses $1.1 Million PPP Loan on Cryptocurrency
Last week, Texas resident, Joshua Thomas Argires, was taken into custody on allegations that he fraudulently obtained more than $1.1 million in PPP loans which he then invested in cryptocurrency and used on personal expenses.
The criminal complaint alleges Argires submitted two fraudulent PPP loan applications to a federally insured credit union. One of these applications was submitted on behalf of an entity called Texas Barbecue; the other was filed on behalf of a company called Houston Landscaping. Argires allegedly claimed these two companies had numerous employees and hundreds of thousands of dollars in payroll expenses. However, federal prosecutors say neither Texas Barbecue nor Houston Landscaping have employees or pay wages consistent with the amounts claimed in Argires’ PPP loan applications.
Both of Argires’ loans were accepted by the Huston-based credit union and funded. However, the charges claim that none of the funds were used for payroll or other expenses authorized under PPP. Rather, the $956,250 received on behalf of Texas Barbecue was invested in the cryptocurrency company, Coinbase, via a series of five wire transfers and the $160,657 obtained for Houston Landscaping was deposited in a personal bank account and slowly depleted via ATM withdrawals.
Although the Department of Justice has not revealed how the fraudulent activity was detected, court documents include a copy of Argiries’ PPP applications, which suggested that he regularly paid 51 Texas Barbecue employees an average of $90,000 a month. “Such a high average salary for a barbecue operation raises suspicion,” the complaint reads.
Argiries has been released on $25,000 bail and has been assigned a public defender. He has not yet been convicted.