BRUNSWICK -- A South Georgia man holding himself out as a pastor, mortician, restaurateur and tax preparer has admitted lying to receive COVID-19 small business assistance.
Mack Devon Knight, 45, of Kingsland, pled guilty to two counts of wire fraud, said David H. Estes, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. The plea subjects Knight to a possible statutory sentence of up to 20 years in prison, substantial financial penalties and restitution, and up to three years of supervised release after completion of any prison sentence.
There is no parole in the federal system.
“Congress provided emergency taxpayer funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Security (CARES) Act to help financially struggling small businesses during the pandemic,” said Estes. “I have made fraud related to these funds a priority, and Mack Knight’s prosecution should once again make it clear that this office and our law enforcement partners will not tolerate those who would try to personally profit from this program by inventing businesses and submitting fake documents.”
As described in court documents and testimony, in February and March 2021, Knight applied for Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs) from the Small Business Administration (SBA) on behalf of multiple Camden County businesses. Those EIDL applications falsely claimed that Knight had a series of businesses he claimed had up to hundreds of thousands of dollars of gross revenue prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. In pleading guilty, Knight admitted that those applications were fraudulent, and admitted to sending fictitious documents to the SBA, including a fake tax document and an altered bank record.
As a result of those fraudulent filings, Knight received $149,900 from the SBA on behalf of a claimed tax business, and he used a large portion of the funds to buy a Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedan. As part of his plea agreement, Knight is forfeiting the vehicle to the United States.
“COVID-19 disaster relief loans were issued by the government to help businesses struggling to survive during a pandemic, not to use for personal pleasures like Knight used them for,” said Philip Wislar, acting special agent in charge of FBI Atlanta. “The FBI is dedicated to holding accountable anyone who would abuse taxpayer dollars and divert them from citizens who desperately need them.”
To report a COVID-19-related fraud scheme or suspicious activity, contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) by calling the NCDF Hotline at 1-866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated the case. Knight was prosecuted for the United States by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jonathan A. Porter and Patrick J. Schwedler.