Central District of California | Hollywood man arrested on arraignment alleging he fraudulently claimed over $65 million in COVID-19 employment tax credits
ANGELS A Hollywood man has been arrested and is set to face trial this afternoon on federal charges alleging he sought more than $65 million from the IRS by falsely claiming on tax returns that his business non-existent farm was entitled to tax credits related to COVID-19.
Kevin J. Gregory, 55, who is charged in an indictment by a federal grand jury with 17 counts of making false statements to the IRS, was arrested Thursday morning by special agents from the IRS Criminal Investigation.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impact, Congress authorized an employee retention tax credit that a small business could use to reduce the employment tax it owed to the IRS, also known as the Employee Retention Credit.
To qualify, the business had to have been in operation in 2020 and experienced at least a partial suspension of operations due to a government order related to COVID-19 (e.g. an order restricting trade, meetings group or travel) or a significant drop in profits. The credit was an amount equal to a fixed percentage of the wages the company paid to its employees during the relevant period, subject to a maximum amount.
Congress also authorized the IRS to provide an employment tax credit to reimburse companies for wages paid to employees who were on sick or family leave and unable to work due to COVID-19. This sick leave and paid family leave credit was equal to the salary that the company paid to employees during sick leave or family leave, also subject to a maximum amount.
According to the indictment which was released on May 11 and unsealed today, from November 2020 to April 2022, Gregory made false statements to the IRS for the payment of nearly $65.4 million in tax refunds for an alleged farming and transportation operation based in Beverly Hills. company named Elijah USA Farm Holdings.
The IRS issued a portion of the refunds claimed by Gregory, and Gregory allegedly used that portion of more than $2.7 million for personal expenses.
An indictment contains allegations that an accused has committed a crime. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in court.
If convicted, Gregory faces a maximum statutory sentence of five years in federal prison for each misrepresentation charge.
IRS Criminal Investigation is investigating this case.
Assistant United States Attorneys Valerie L. Makarewicz and Gregory D. Bernstein of the Major Fraud Section are prosecuting the case.
Anyone with information about alleged attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justices National Center for Disaster Fraud hotline at (866) 720-5721 or through the complaint form NCDF online at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.
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