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Shepherd restaurant owner pleads guilty after buying vintage cars with CARES Act money
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Shepherd restaurant owner pleads guilty after buying vintage cars with CARES Act money

The owner of the Feedlot Steakhouse in Shepherd admitted he received about $75,000 in COVID-19 relief loans from the Small Business Administration, but instead of putting the money into his businesses he used it to buy vintage automobiles as an investment.

Michael Eugene Bolte, 70, pleaded guilty to theft of government money, property or records, a misdemeanor. Bolte faces a maximum of one year in prison, a $100,000 fine and one year of supervised release.

As part of a plea agreement struck with the U.S. Attorney’s office, a higher charge will be dismissed at sentencing and Bolte will be responsible for full restitution at $74,800. Bolte also agreed to a criminal forfeiture of the vintage automobiles purchased, which include a 1916 Studebaker, a 1929 Franklin, a 1939 Ford Deluxe and a 1941 Ford Super Deluxe.

“Federal programs, like the one at issue here, don’t work when people cheat," said U.S. Attorney Leif Johnson in a press release. "If someone like Bolte applies for federal program funds intended to help businesses survive the pandemic, but buys classic cars instead, that deprives other deserving applicants of the opportunity to use the funds."

On April 1, 2020, Bolte applied to the SBA for a business loan under the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. On May 24, 2020, he signed a loan agreement for $74,800 and expressly acknowledged the EIDL loan would be used solely as working capital for his business, charges alleged.

Bolte’s intent at the time of signing for the loan was to buy vintage automobiles as an investment, and not as working capital for his business, according to investigators. Eleven days after receiving the loan, Bolte wrote a check for $75,000 for the purchase of four vintage vehicles. The SBA would not have approved or funded Bolte’s loan had it known Bolte’s intended and actual use of the funds.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael A. Kakuk prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the IRS Criminal Investigation, with assistance from the SBA Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

U.S. District Judge Susan P. Watters presided. Judge Watters set sentencing for April 13, 2022. Bolte was released pending further proceedings.

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