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Two Montana men charged with $1 million COVID-relief fraud scheme
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Two Montana men charged with $1 million COVID-relief fraud scheme

Two Montana men have pleaded not guilty to federal bank fraud charges after the U.S. Attorney for Montana accused them of defrauding a bank of approximately $1 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans and using the money to buy things like property and vehicles.

Trevor Gene Lanius-McLeod, also known as Trevor Gene McLeod, 48, of Laurel, and Kasey Jones Wilson, 29, of Helena, each pleaded not guilty to bank fraud and with engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity.

The two men applied for over $1,043,000 in PPP loans last year between April and December with Valley Bank of Helena, alleged the government. The loans were supposed to be used to pay salaries at four different businesses. McLeod applied for funds as the authorized representative of T. McLeod Holdings LLC, Hilltop Estates LLC, and Renovated Montana Properties LLP. McLeod and Wilson applied for funds as the authorized representatives of Step Above Management LLC.

In the applications, the men allegedly made numerous false statements about having paid payroll taxes and having employees, and they agreed to use the loan funds for payroll costs, costs related to group health care benefits and insurance premiums, rent, utilities, interest on payments on debt and refinancing a Small Business Administration Economic Injury Disaster Loan.

The men instead used the funds on property in East Helena, four vehicles and a travel trailer, alleged federal prosecutors. If convicted the property will be forfeited to the U.S. Government.

McLeod appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge John Johnston last Tuesday, July 27, in Great Falls. That same day, Wilson appeared in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy Cavan in Billings. If convicted of the most serious crime, the defendants face a maximum 30 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.

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