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Chesterland man sentenced to year in prison for COVID-19 relief fraud

Robert Bearden was sentenced to one year in prison and ordered to pay $62,296.70 in restitution.

CHESTERLAND, Ohio — A 49-year-old Geauga County man has been sentenced to one year and prison and ordered to pay $62,296.70 in restitution after pleading guilty to COVID-19 relief fraud.

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Robert Bearden, of Chesterland, was sentenced on Thursday by U.S. District Judge Donald C. Nugent after initially pleading guilty to four charges in November. Bearden was accused of devising a scheme to fraudulently obtain approximately $60,000 in Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in July 2020. He was indicted on three charges of wire fraud and one count of theft of government funds a year later.

As a part of his scheme, Bearden was alleged to have submitted three fraudulent EIDL loan applications through the Small Business Administration's online application portal, which were approved for a total of approximately $60,000 in funds disbursed. Bearden used false information on the applications about existing and non-existing businesses and the name of third parties in return for a kickback of a portion of the funds received. 

Bearden was also alleged to have used the personal identifying information of persons interested in obtaining government pandemic assistance to submit loan applications on their behalf, but proceeded to direct the funds into his own account, including one of the three loans that was approved.

Bearden's case was investigated by the FBI and IRS' criminal investigations unit. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Elliot D. Morrison and Brian M. McDonough.

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