The trial for an Arroyo Grande couple accused of defrauding the federal government of more than $1.3 million in Covid-19-relief funds was set to begin in federal district court Tuesday.
44 yr. old Christopher Mazzei and 41yr. old Erin Mazzei, were charged with a four-count indictment in May of 2022 in connection with a scheme to defraud the government of Paycheck Protection Program loan funds. The charges included wire fraud, money laundering and conspiracy.
According to the indictment, he couple received $1.365 million in loan funds which they used for personal purposes, including a down payment on a condo on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, and two sport-utility vehicles. The Mazzeis submitted applications for Paycheck Protection funds on behalf of three purported businesses to financial institutions in Pennsylvania, Maine and Hawaii which contained false IRS tax returns and payroll records.
The Mazzeis said in the loan applications that the funds would only be used to retain workers, maintain payroll or make mortgage, lease or utility payments. The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Hawaii is prosecuting the case.
The Paycheck Protection Program, part of the CARES Act of 2020, was a government program meant to provide assistance to businesses affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Qualifying small businesses and organizations could receive loans with a maturity of two years and an interest rate of 1%.