U City business owner ordered to pay back $650K in bank, pandemic fraud

*NOTE: This is a stock photo.
*NOTE: This is a stock photo.(Pexels via MGN)
Published: Jan. 6, 2023 at 5:02 PM CST
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ST. LOUIS COUNTY (KMOV) -- A University City man has been sentenced to 30 months in prison and ordered to pay back $650,000 that he was convicted of stealing through bank and pandemic-related fraud.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Missouri said that Le Mell Harlston, 36, used someone else’s Social Security number to apply for loans and lines of credit at credit unions and banks. Charges also alleged he applied for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster loans after he was indicted for bank fraud in January 2021. Those loans were intended to help business owners during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Harlston applied for Economic Injury Disaster loans for four companies under his name in July 2020 but used another person’s Social Security on the application.

The attorney’s office said Harlston stole $653,332 through bank and pandemic fraud. He pleaded guilty in federal court in August to five counts of bank fraud and nine counts of misuse of a Social Security number.

U.S. Attorney Sayler Fleming said in a press release that Harlston’s case is one of nearly four dozen pandemic fraud cases the office is prosecuting. The U.S. Attorney’s Office asks anyone with information about possible pandemic fraud to call the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721.