Jury Convicts Catawba Co. Man Of Bank Robbery, COVID-19 Fraud, And Aggravated Identity Theft

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FILE PHOTO: American flag waves outside the U.S. Department of Justice Building in Washington

STATESVILLE, N.C. – A federal grand jury sitting in Statesville has convicted Spenc’r Denard Rickerson, 35, of Claremont, N.C., of bank robbery, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft, announced Dena J. King, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. U.S. District Judge Kenneth D. Bell presided over the two-day trial which ended today.

U.S. Attorney King is joined in making today’s announcement by Michael C. Scherck, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Charlotte Division.

According to court documents, witness testimony and evidence presented at trial, between June 30, 2020, and March 20, 2021, Rickerson used false information to apply for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan and multiple Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Trial evidence established that, in order to obtain the PPP loan, Rickerson submitted a fraudulent application for a non-existent company that contained a number of false information, including the purpose of the loan and the company’s payroll costs. Rickerson also submitted fraudulent applications for several loans under the EIDL program, in which he provided fake information about the number of company employees and gross revenues. According to trial evidence, as a result of the fraudulent PPP and EIDL loan applications, Rickerson allegedly received over $84,233 in fraudulent funds intended to assist businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

According to evidence presented at trial, in addition to the fraudulent loan scheme, on March 18, 2021, Rickerson committed an armed robbery of a BB&T Bank located at 12 North Main Avenue, in Newton, N.C. Rickerson used the stolen funds from the fraudulent loan scheme and the bank robbery to pay bills and to buy cryptocurrency.

Rickerson remains free on bond. The maximum statutory penalty for the bank robbery offense is 25 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The wire fraud charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The aggravated identity theft charge carries a mandatory two-year prison term consecutive to any other prison term imposed. A sentencing date has not been set.

The FBI in Charlotte investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lambert Guinn and Jenny G. Sugar of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte are in charge of the prosecution.

To report suspected COVID-19 fraud, contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) at (866) 720-5721 or file an online complaint at https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/webform/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form. Complaints filed will be reviewed by the NCDF and referred to federal, state, local or international law enforcement or regulatory agencies for investigation. Members of the public in the Western District of North Carolina are also encouraged to call 704-344-6222 to reach their local Coronavirus Fraud Coordinator.