Two former Howell residents charged by feds with scamming COVID payroll protection program

Two former Howell residents have been charged by federal authorities with defrauding the Payroll Protection Program that was set up to help struggling small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jean E. Rabbit and Kevin Aguilar, both 51, were arrested Wednesday and charged with conspiracy to engage in monetary transactions in property derived from specified illegal activities. Rabbit was also charged with bank fraud.

The two have lived together since 2012 and now reside in Frisco, Texas, federal authorities said.

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act was enacted to provide emergency relief. As part of this, the CARES Act authorized $649 billion for the Payroll Protection Program, a program that provided loans to struggling small businesses for job retention, rent and other expenses. These short-term, low-interest loans were forgivable if companies dedicated a certain percentage to payroll and spent the money on all targeted expenses within a specific time frame.

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Rabbit received $3.3 million for four businesses it owned and controlled, according to the complaint: Showtime Trucking, Showtime TTR XPO, TTS Terminal Corp. and American Consolidated Freightways Corp. She submitted seven forged loan applications between April 2020 and May 2021 to at least three lenders, according to an affidavit in the case.

The money was sent to various shell payroll companies owned and controlled by Aguilar, according to the affidavit. The funds were then spent on personal expenses and the purchase of property in Texas, authorities said.

Rabbit is also accused of submitting falsified documents for loan cancellation.

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Some signs of fraud appeared in the loan applications, according to the affidavit. Rabbit claimed to have employed 36 employees at one of the four companies, a number that has not changed from quarter to quarter, and each received the same salary of $23,275. The number of hours worked by each was the same from quarter to quarter.

The tax documents used to support the fraudulent loan applications were never filed with the IRS, according to the affidavit.

Information about the defendants’ lawyers has not yet been listed in online criminal records.

Ken Serrano covers crime, breaking news, investigations and local issues. Contact him at [email protected]

This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: Former Howell NJ residents charged with defrauding COVID relief fund

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