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Former Broward Sheriff’s Office Lieutenant Charged with COVID-19 Relief Fraud

MIAMI, FL – A former lieutenant of the Broward Sheriff’s Office Department of Detention, Ernest Bernard Gonder Jr., has been charged with wire fraud in connection with a scheme to fraudulently obtain $167,750 in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. The 41-year-old Port St. Lucie resident faces serious allegations of exploiting federal relief efforts designed to aid businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to federal prosecutors, on April 1, 2021, Gonder submitted a PPP loan application filled with misrepresentations for his company, EBG Properties LLC, falsely inflating the average monthly payroll and the number of employees. The application was supported by multiple fraudulent IRS Forms 941, leading a New Jersey-based SBA-approved PPP lender to disburse $106,540 to Gonder’s control.

In a similar vein, just days later on April 6, Gonder is accused of submitting another deceptive application for The Impact Center of Broward County Inc, again misstating the payroll and employee numbers and submitting fraudulent tax documents. This resulted in an additional $61,210 being allocated to him from the same lender.

The charges suggest Gonder used the ill-gotten gains for personal enrichment and even sought forgiveness for these loans, compounding the alleged fraud.

Gonder made his initial court appearance in Fort Lauderdale on January 30. If convicted, he could face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for each count of wire fraud.

The case is part of a broader Department of Justice initiative to clamp down on fraud related to the CARES Act's relief programs, such as the PPP and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, amidst the pandemic. U.S. Attorney Markenzy Lapointe, along with officials from the FBI, the Office of Inspector General for the Federal Reserve and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the Broward Sheriff’s Office, announced the charges.

The investigation was a joint effort by the FBI Miami, FRB-CFPB Office of Inspector General, and BSO. Assistant U.S. Attorney Marc Anton is prosecuting the case, with Assistant U.S. Attorney Sara Klco focusing on asset forfeiture.

As the legal process unfolds, it is important to remember that the charges contained in the information are merely allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. This case underscores the federal government's commitment to pursuing individuals who allegedly exploit emergency relief funds for personal gain.



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