Minneapolis/ Crime & Emergencies
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Published on May 22, 2024
Minneapolis Business Consultants Accused of $1 Million Pandemic Aid Fraud SchemeSource: Jonathunder, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Two business consultants from Minneapolis have landed in hot water, charged with cooking up a scheme to scam over $1 million from government pandemic relief funds, according to U.S. Attorney Andrew M. Luger. The indicted men, Tezzaree El-Amin Champion and Marcus Alexander Hamilton, both 27, allegedly exploited the COVID-19 aid programs set up to keep small businesses afloat during the crisis, said Luger in a statement.

Reportedly, the two masterminded their plan starting in 2020, using their firm, Futuristic Management Group LLC, to submit fake applications for PPP loans and other pandemic-related financial support, for themselves and on behalf of their clients. They wriggled their way into a contract with Hennepin County under the “Elevate Business” program, but instead of following through, they billed for non-existent work and even work that they had already charged their clients for even though the contract stated they were supposed to be providing the services at no cost.

What's more, the duo implicated in the money-grabbing ruse is also accused of misappropriating loan and grant funds that were intended for their business clientele and used intimidation tactics including the showing of a firearm to coerce clients, authorities unearthed this grim detail when they raided Champion's residence on April 26, 2023, and found cash and a revolver he wasn't legally allowed to have. The grand tally of the ill-gotten gains exceeded $1 million, and the case had over a hundred fishy invoices, loans, and grant applications.

The list of charges against them is long, featuring three counts of mail fraud, three counts of wire fraud, one count each of theft of government money and transacting in criminal proceeds, and with Champion also looking at a firearms charge; their first court appearance was earlier today, they maintain their innocence until the trial concludes. Only time will tell if they'll be able to slip out of this legal snare. The intensive probe that brought the alleged schemers to light was a team effort by the IRS, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, and the Minneapolis Police Department with Assistant U.S. Attorneys Matthew D. Forbes and Joseph H. Thompson spearheading the prosecution.