BILLINGS—A Laurel man was arraigned today on an indictment alleging he attempted to illegally obtain $35,000 from the Paycheck Protection Program, a federal loan program created through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to help businesses struggling with the financial effects of the coronavirus pandemic, U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme said today.
Matthew Jason Welch, 38, pleaded not guilty to two counts of wire fraud as charged in an indictment filed on Aug. 21. An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Wire fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.
The indictment against Welch is the first PPP fraud case to be charged in Montana.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy J. Cavan presided. Welch was released pending further proceedings.
The indictment alleges Welch attempted to unjustly enrich himself by submitting an application on April 23 to obtain a PPP loan under false and misleading pretenses by making false statements about his criminal history. It is also alleged he intended to use the loan proceeds to pay for restitution and other costs related to pending criminal cases against him. The indictment further alleges that Welch, in the name of Welch Sole Proprietorship, sought $35,000 in PPP funds to support payroll, lease and mortgage-interest costs and utility costs and that he falsely certified he was not subject to criminal charges.