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Public Safety, Virginia

Richmond man sentenced to seven years in prison for COVID-19 PPP loan schemes

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A Richmond man was sentenced Thursday to seven years in prison for orchestrating successive schemes to defraud a COVID-19 relief program and steal funds through altered checks.

Davon Hunter, 26, used Instagram and word of mouth to recruit potential co-conspirators to provide their personal identifying information so that Hunter could submit fraudulent applications to the Paycheck Protection Program. PPP was a COVID-19 relief program that was intended to provide loans backed by the Small Business Administration to certain businesses, nonprofit organizations and other entities to help them retain their employees or stay afloat during the pandemic.

According to court documents, Hunter submitted at least 23 fraudulent PPP loan applications to at least four financial institutions for fictitious businesses purportedly belonging to himself and 16 other co-conspirators.

These applications contained false and fabricated gross income figures and false certifications that the businesses were in operation on Feb.15, 2020.

Hunter and his co-conspirators fraudulently obtained more than $500,000 in PPP loans.

In exchange for preparing the fraudulent loan applications and supplying supporting documents, Hunter demanded 25–50 percent of each loan obtained by the co-conspirators.

When the PPP loan program ended in 2021, Hunter turned to card cracking — a scheme to defraud financial institutions through the deposit of fraudulently altered stolen checks from small businesses.

Hunter and his co-conspirators recruited at least 16 accountholders to provide their debit cards and personal identification numbers. They stole legitimate checks from various small businesses, altered the checks to make them payable to accounts controlled by conspirators, and deposited at least 16 altered checks purportedly worth more than $150,000. Immediately after these deposits, they conducted successive transactions to quickly access the credited funds before the banks determined the deposits to be worthless.

Despite knowing of the federal investigation, Hunter continued in his card cracking schemes. At the time of his arrest, Hunter possessed two additional altered checks worth more than $27,000, along with several bank cards in the names of other people.

Court records showed that even though he lacked verifiable, legitimate income throughout these schemes, Hunter flaunted his fraud proceeds and luxurious lifestyle on social media.

His Instagram account and bank records reflect postings with thousands of dollars in cash and money orders and expenditures for expensive jewelry, $26,000 for veneers, gambling, the purchase of luxury goods and clothing from Dior, Saks, Louis Vuitton, Chanel and more, attendance at professional sports events, trips and vacations throughout the country and the purchase of a Range Rover.

On Oct. 31, 2023, Hunter pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit bank fraud.

A separate hearing to determine Hunter’s restitution and forfeiture obligations will take place on May 14.

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.