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Feds accuse Novi man of $3M COVID-19 scheme

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

Detroit — Federal prosecutors charged a Novi man Tuesday with fraudulently trying to obtain more than $3.1 million in federal COVID-19 aid, including money for a firm named "Bless My Grind."

Antonio George, 44, devised a scheme to cheat banks by sending loan applications that contained fraudulent information, according to a criminal complaint unsealed in federal court in Detroit.

In all, bank officials flagged 19 loan applications seeking $3,118,442 in pandemic assistance that either contained identical wage and employee information or were linked to George. That includes money from the $649 billion Paycheck Protection Program distributed by the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program.

George is the latest person charged with fraud involving federal pandemic assistance. Several people in Metro Detroit have been charged in recent weeks, including Detroiter Darrell Lamont Baker, 51, who prosecutors say schemed to obtain almost $600,000, some of which was spent buying two Cadillac Escalades, a Dodge Charger, and a Hummer.

George, whose criminal record includes convictions for second-degree murder and domestic violence, was released on bond Tuesday. If convicted of wire fraud, he could be sentenced to up to 30 years in federal prison.

“Every dollar stolen from the program is a dollar stolen from struggling businesses in need," U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said in a statement.

The paperwork submitted in the George case included an application for a $192,140 loan for a Southfield investment firm. The alleged scheme fizzled when investigators visited the office on the 16000 block of W. 10 Mile and, instead of a money manager, agents found a denture clinic, according to a court affidavit signed by an FBI special agent.

State records showed the investment firm hasn't employed workers since 2015, according to the FBI agent.

A separate application sought $195,383 in emergency pandemic aid for a firm named "Bless My Grind." 

rsnell@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @robertsnellnews