Mississippi businessman sentenced in pandemic relief fraud

tax fraud handcuffs

A Mississippi businessman has been sentenced to more than six years in prison for misusing over $6 million in business loans through a coronavirus pandemic relief program.

Christopher Paul Lick of Starkville received the 78-month sentence Friday from U.S. District Court Judge Glen H. Davidson. The sentencing took place in Oxford nearly two months after Lick pleaded guilty to wire fraud.

Rather than use the money for his businesses, Lick admitted using it for personal investments in the stock market and to buy a home valued at more than $1 million, according to a news release Monday from Clay Joyner, the U.S. attorney for northern Mississippi.

“The sentence imposed in this case was well deserved,” Joyner said. “For more than two years, the defendant was living lavishly on taxpayer dollars while millions of Americans were struggling during the pandemic.”

Lick filed fraudulent loan applications to banks that were providing loans as part of the Paycheck Protection Program, according to court records. The records show Lick owned and managed four companies, including Aspen River Candle Co., based in Columbus, Mississippi. Joyner said Lick admitted overstating the number of employees and payroll expenses to receive money.

Rather than use the Paycheck Protection Program money for his businesses, Lick admitted he bought a home valued at more than $1 million and used some of the money for personal investments in the stock market, the news release said.

Paycheck Protection Program loans were guaranteed by the Small Business Administration under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

Jermicha Fomby, special agent in charge of the FBI field office in Jackson, said in the news release that Lick “took very proactive steps to defraud the U. S. Government and the citizens of this nation.”

Republished with the permission of The Associated Press.