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Mountain Home Man sentenced for obtaining COVID relief funds by fraud

James Read was sentenced to 63 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release after abusing COVID-19 relief funds.

MOUNTAIN HOME, Ark. — A Mountain Home man will serve time in prison for fraudulently obtaining coronavirus relief funds.

On Monday (Sept. 20), James Read of Mountain Home was sentenced to over five years in prison with three years of supervised release for charges of abuse of various COVID-19 related economic relief programs. 

According to court documents, Read falsified documents to apply for Small Business Administration loans which are intended for businesses struggling during the pandemic. Court documents also say read filed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for himself and others in multiple states despite being ineligible for funds. 

In addition to Read's sentence, the court has also ordered him to pay $277,827 in restitution for the fraudulently obtained relief funding.  

"Our agents will continue to pursue fake business owners such as Mr. Read aka 'Snowbird Bob', who chose to steal funds intended for small business owners crippled by this global pandemic," said Special Agent Christopher Artemis of the Internal revenue Service- Criminal Investigations. 

Read's wife, Crystal Payne, 43, was also sentenced on Monday to five years of probation, a $5,000 fine and $59,130 in restoration for her role in the offenses.  

"Our office will continue to vigorously pursue criminals such as Mr. Read and Mrs. Payne, stated the Acting United States, Attorney David Clay Fowlkes. "This couple executed a scheme to steal money that was intended to help those who were truly in need. This sort of fraud is reprehensible and will not be tolerated in the Western District of Arkansas." 

This case was investigated bub the IRS-Criminal Investigations, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration and the Small Business Administration Office of the Inspector General. 

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