WASHINGTON – Kenneth Gaughan, 44, of Washington, D.C., was sentenced today to 78 months in prison for carrying out a series of financial schemes. In one, he embezzled more than $438,000 from the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., where he was previously employed as Assistant Superintendent. In the other, he fraudulently obtained more than $2.1 million in federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL).
The announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves, Darrell Waldon, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, Washington, D.C. Field Office, Thomas J. Sobocinski, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Baltimore Field Office, and Amaleka McCall-Brathwaite, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Small Business Administration, Office of the Inspector General, Eastern Region.
Gaughan, who used the alias of Richard Strauski, pleaded guilty on March 2, 2022, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to three counts: one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering in the PPP and EIDL case, and one count of wire fraud in the case involving the Archdiocese. He was sentenced by the Honorable Tanya S. Chutkan. Following his prison term, he will be placed on three years of supervised release. He also must pay restitution, and the amount will be determined at a later date.
“For a decade, Kenneth Gaughan stole money meant to help needy people, businesses, and organizations, starting with a scheme defrauding his own employer and later looting government COVID-relief efforts,” said U.S. Attorney Graves. “He went to great lengths to conceive, carry out, and conceal his crimes. Now, he will be facing the consequences of his greed with confinement in a federal prison.”
“Kenneth Gaughan is facing the consequences for defrauding his employer for years and then enriching himself with taxpayer funds meant to help businesses and employees at a time of crisis,” said IRS-CI Special Agent in Charge Waldon. “Instead of enjoying his ill-gotten yacht, new car and home, he will now be serving his sentence in prison thanks to our IRS-CI and law enforcement partner investigators. We will continue to pursue CARES Act fraud and bring these criminals to justice.”
“This sentence demonstrates the FBI’s commitment to hold accountable those who attempt to defraud pandemic-related assistance programs designed to aid businesses and employees in these challenging times,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Sobocinski. “We will continue to collaborate with our partners to combat this self-serving type of fraud. I want to thank our partners at the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation and the U.S. Small Business Administration, Office of the Inspector General, for their efforts in bringing Kenneth Gaughan to justice.”
“Those that commit fraud against SBA’s programs will be brought to justice and held accountable,” said SBA OIG’s Special Agent in Charge McCall-Brathwaite. “OIG remains committed to rooting out bad actors and protecting the integrity of SBA programs every day. I want to thank the U.S. Department of Justice and our law enforcement partners for their dedication and pursuit of justice.”
Scheme Involving the Archdiocese of Washington:
In his guilty plea, Gaughan admitted defrauding the Archdiocese of Washington of more than $438,000. Gaughan began working for the Archdiocese as its Director of Counseling in 2008 and was later promoted to Assistant Superintendent. In his role, Gaughan was responsible for recruiting and acting as the point of contact for contractors who provided various services to the Archdiocese. These included contractors that could help the Archdiocese implement anti-bullying, crisis intervention, and professional development programs at the approximately 95 Catholic schools overseen by the Archdiocese in Maryland and Washington, D.C. Gaughan also obtained invoices for services from contractors and provided those invoices, along with requests for payment and supporting documentation, to his superiors for approval.
Beginning in at least June 2010 and continuing through April 2018, Gaughan caused the Archdiocese to pay invoices manufactured by Gaughan purportedly for anti-bullying and crisis intervention programs, as well as for software used to send mass messages to Archdiocese students and families. To execute the scheme, Gaughan concealed his ownership and control of three companies, including by submitting forms using an alias. Gaughan then transmitted fraudulent invoices for these companies and persuaded the Archdiocese to issue checks for services that Gaughan knew the companies did not provide as represented. Gaughan opened virtual and private mailboxes to receive the checks issued to pay for the fraudulent invoices. He deposited the checks into the bank accounts he controlled and converted the money to his personal use.
Scheme Involving Government Programs:
According to court documents, Gaughan subsequently carried out his scheme targeting federal funds from at least March 2020 through August 2020. The PPP loans were created through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. These forgivable loans were to be used by businesses and organizations for payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent and utilities. The EIDL loans, part of a program run by the Small Business Administration, also were designed to help businesses and organizations facing hardship.
In Gaughan’s case, he used funds from the two programs, in part, to purchase a $300,000 yacht, a $1.13 million rowhouse, and a $46,000 luxury sports sedan.
According to the government’s evidence, in the course of his scheme, Gaughan sought over $2.7 million in PPP loans on behalf of nine companies. Some of the applications were submitted in his own name, and others were in the name of another individual. Gaughan received approximately $2.1 million in PPP and EIDL funds through applications to SBA lenders for the companies, which falsely purport to register emotional support animals. Gaughan made false representations to receive the loan funds, including forged paperwork and bank records.
Gaughan then used a portion of the loan proceeds to purchase a 2020 Cruisers Yachts 338 CX 33-foot watercraft, a 2020 Kia Stinger, and a rowhouse in Northeast Washington.
Gaughan was arrested in both cases on Aug. 11, 2020.
At the time of Gaughan’s arrest, the government obtained a warrant authorizing the seizure of the yacht, the Kia Stinger, Gaughan’s investment account, and Gaughan’s bank accounts. The government also filed a civil forfeiture complaint against the home Gaughan purchased with his fraudulently obtained proceeds. Additionally, the government filed a lis pendens on that property to give proper notice of the forfeiture litigation and to prevent the sale of the property prior to the resolution of this case.
The matter involving the Archdiocese of Washington was investigated by the FBI. The PPP and EIDL matters were investigated by the IRS-CI, FBI, and SBA-OIG.
The cases were prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Christine Macey of the Fraud, Public Corruption, and Civil Rights Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia; Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Collins of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland; and Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Bernstein, formerly of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland. They were supported by Paralegal Specialists Michon Tart and Quiana Dunn-Gordon, Victim-Witness Advocate Yvonne Bryant, and Supervisory Litigation Technology Specialist Leif Hickling. The seizure and forfeiture matters were handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Arvind Lal, former Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Grisier, former Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Brantley, and Senior Attorney Advisor James S. Alexander of the Justice Department’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section.
On May 17, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. The Task Force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud by, among other methods, augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts. For more information on the department’s response to the pandemic, please visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.
Anyone with information about allegations of fraud related to COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.