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Convicted felon got PPP loan for fake business

A Bridgeport man previously convicted for federal drug and gun offenses was able to secure a Paycheck Protection Program loan of more than $40,000 in 2021 under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the U.S. District Attorney’s Office said in a press release.

Antrum Coston had previously been convicted of federal felonies related to gun possession and drug offenses in 2004 and 2017, and in April of 2021, Coston applied for a PPP loan for a fake cleaning company. 

“In association with the loan application, Coston made multiple false statements, including that his business was established in 2018 when, in fact, no cleaning business associated with Coston had been formed in 2018, and that the business had a total gross income for 2019 of $114,658 when, in fact, the business had not earned such income, and Coston was incarcerated for all of 2019,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

In December of 2021, after receiving a PPP loan of $41,666, Coston was again arrested by police after nearly striking an officer with his car and possessing “distribution quantities of heroin/fentanyl, cocaine and crack cocaine, and more than $2,000 in cash.” A follow-up search of Coston’s home revealed more narcotics and a ballistic vest.

Nevertheless, just two months later in February of 2022, Coston applied for forgiveness of his PPP loan.

The issuance and rampant availability of the PPP loans with little oversight during the COVID pandemic made them ripe for fraud, ranging from outright fabrications, like Coston, to already-wealthy business owners using the money to purchase high-end vehicles, jewelry and second homes.

It is estimated that upwards of $80 billion was fraudulently taken from the $800 billion Paycheck Protection Program, and in March President Joe Biden assigned a prosecutor to pursue the massive amount of fraud associated with the government’s COVID-relief programs.

In Connecticut, more than 12,000 PPP loans were flagged for questions, according to CT Insider, and the Department of Justice has been following through with indictments and convictions. In January of 2022, a Stamford man, Moustapha Diakhate, plead guilty to taking $4 million in PPP loans using false information and then used the money for personal expenses, including purchasing multiple luxury vehicles.

Two other Connecticut residents were similarly charged earlier in the year for fraudulently obtaining $9 million in COVID-relief funds, along with four others living in Ohio, under the guise of operating a church. The money was used to purchase vehicles.

Coston waived his right to be indicted and plead guilty on Thursday to the charges of wire fraud and money laundering, which carry a maximum prison sentence of 10 years. 

Coston also plead guilty to possession with intent to distribute controlled substances, which carries a 20-year maximum sentence.

Marc E. Fitch, Senior Investigative Reporter

Marc E. Fitch

Marc worked as an investigative reporter for Yankee Institute and was a 2014 Robert Novak Journalism Fellow. He previously worked in the field of mental health is the author of several books and novels, along with numerous freelance reporting jobs and publications. Marc has a Master of Fine Arts degree from Western Connecticut State University.

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