A New Haven man will serve 37 months in federal prison on a series of charges including wire fraud, money laundering, and drug possession with intent to distribute.
According to court documents, Antrum Coston, 41, filed two applications for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, the first in April 2021 and the second in February 2022, totaling $41,666. In the application, Coston claimed they were to cover payroll expenses for a cleaning business he owned but further investigation revealed that those applications had been falsified.
While Coston had registered a sole proprietorship by the name of Uptop Cleaning Shop in the state of Connecticut, he had done so in May of 2021. On the application, filed a month earlier, Coston claimed the business had been established in 2018.
Coston also claimed a 2019 revenue of $114,658 for the business to justify the loan amounts but authorities say he was incarcerated for the whole of that year and could not have brought in income for a business that did not seem to exist.
Further, Coston submitted a falsified Schedule C tax form for the business to back up his revenue claims. No such form had ever been filed.
Loan applications and supporting documents were processed by a third-party company tasked with reviewing such documents and processing loans.
The PPP loans were established by the federal government to assist small businesses hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent stay-at-home orders. Businesses that received loans through the program and used that funding for payroll expenses would have their balance forgiven.
Coston attempted to have both of his PPP loans forgiven through this process in 2022.
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), which was tasked with disbursing approximately $1.2 trillion of COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and Paycheck Protection Program funds, estimates that they distributed over $200 billion in potentially fraudulent COVID-19 EIDLs, EIDL Targeted Advances, Supplemental Targeted Advances, and PPP loans. This means at least 17 percent of all COVID-19 EIDL and PPP funds were disbursed to potentially fraudulent actors.
Separate from the loan fraud, Coston was stopped by police on New Year’s Eve 2021 but attempted to flee during the stop. Police later found him hiding in a parking lot and a subsequent search of his vehicle turned up “distribution quantities of heroin/fentanyl, cocaine, and crack cocaine, and more than $2,000 in cash” police also found “$2,790 in cash, a small quantity of crack, and narcotics paraphernalia” during a search of his home.
At the time he committed the fraud and drug offenses, Coston was on supervised release following a 40-month sentence for federal gun and drug charges.
Coston pleaded guilty to the charges and accepted a plea deal from the government. The deal allows him to serve a significantly reduced sentence of just 37 months compared to sentencing guidelines without the plea. Normally, these charges can carry combined sentences of up to 50 years in prison. Following his imprisonment he will again serve three years of supervised release.
Coston is schedule to begin his sentence on November 29.