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An Arkansas man will learn how long he will be in Federal prison when he is sentenced in January 2024. It's the largest case so far of COVID relief fraud in Eastern WA.

Suspect pleads guilty to huge COVID business relief fraud

The US Attorney's Office in Spokane (Federal court) announced Tuesday a suspect has admitted to filling out dozens of fake COVID business relief loan applications.

US Attorney for the District of Eastern WA, Vanessa R. Waldreff, said Tyler Keith Penix, age 37, of Bentonville, Arkansas, formerly known as Tyler Keith Andrews, illegally obtained over $16 million in funding.

In 2020, the CARES Act was signed by President Trump, creating the Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, which provided low-interest "bridge" funding to help businesses stay afloat.

  Arkansas man submitted dozens of fake applications

Andrews obtained $16.5 million dollars in funding for dozens of businesses he allegedly owned, including two in Spokane.  He and co-defendant  Yuriy Anishchenko shared some of the funding, the US Attorney's Office said the two Spokane businesses claimed by Anishchenko and allegedly co-owned by Andrews never existed. Andrews was also accused of helping other people fill out fake applications, and taking some of their funding when it was approved in return.

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According to the US Attorney's Office:

"In total, Penix (Andrews) admitted to obtaining more than $3.25 million in PPP and EIDL funding for his own businesses, and another $13.5 million in EIDL funding for Anishchenko and other co-conspirators."

The CARES Act rapidly ran out of money, in part because of numerous cases of fraud across the country. In 2022, the US Attorney's Office of Eastern WA began a massive investigation into suspicious business aid claims.

Penix (Andrews) will be formally sentenced on January 11th, 2024.

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