The Orlando Weekly reports:
A federal judge has sentenced the CEO of Airsign Airship Group to more than five years in prison for defrauding the government over $7.8 million meant to help average Americans during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. He is the brother-in-law of a former Florida lawmaker who resigned after he was accused of federal fraud, too.
Patrick Parker Walsh, 42, of Williston, Florida, was sentenced Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Gainesville to five and a half years in prison followed by three years of supervised release. Before his sentencing, Walsh choked back tears at times while addressing the court. He said he made a series of bad decisions.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin M. Keen said up to $2 million may have covered payroll due to any pandemic-related slowdown in his business, but Walsh used the rest for his own benefit. “He stole the money and got it by fraud. Theft is theft,” Keen said.
From the Justice Department:
“The theft of any amount of taxpayer funds is inexcusable,” said U.S. Attorney Coody. “However, the defendant’s deceptive acts of diverting millions of dollars in emergency financial assistance from small businesses during the pandemic is simply beyond the pale.
“Today’s sentence both punishes the defendant’s criminal conduct and should serve as a significant deterrent to others who would selfishly steal from their fellow citizens to unlawfully enrich themselves. With our law enforcement partners, we remain committed to investigating and prosecuting those who engage in acts of covid-related fraud.”
Walsh’s fraudulent PPP loan applications sought a total of $11,950,439 in PPP loan funds, of which he received a total of $4,996,167.
Further, between March 2020 and July 2020, Walsh submitted a total of 18 fraudulent applications to the SBA for Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs), in his own name and in the name of his wife. Walsh’s false EIDL applications were approved and a total of $2,822,000 was disbursed to him.
Additionally, Walsh engaged in multiple monetary transactions that involved at least $10,000 of fraudulently obtained PPP loan or EIDL proceeds that he obtained through his wire fraud scheme. Many of these transactions included payments for the purchase of real estate in Florida and Texas, oil leases, and to pay off his mortgage loans.
Walsh used some of the stolen money to buy a private two-acre island in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Yankeetown, Florida; put a down payment on a luxury ski lodge in Jackson Hole, Wyoming; and pay off the 78-acre farm where he lived south of Gainesville, according to court records.
Former Republican state Rep. Joe Harding, the author of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, faces his own federal trial for COVID fraud in May.
Florida blimp executive, relative of former state lawmaker, sentenced to federal prison in pandemic fraud https://t.co/CV1TrPb9E3 pic.twitter.com/3NQXtquuCY
— South Florida Sun Sentinel (@SunSentinel) February 1, 2023