New Jersey

NJ Man Sentenced to Over 2 Years in Prison for COVID Relief Fraud

Bernard Lopez admitted receiving $481,502 in government relief funds designated for businesses affected by the pandemic, according to charging documents

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A New Jersey man who stole hundreds of thousands dollars in Covid relief funds — in part by doctoring a U.S. government check for $1,886.87 to read $211,886.87 — was sentenced this week to over two years in prison and ordered to pay the money back.

Bernard Lopez, a 40-year-old from Middlesex County, pleaded guilty after admitting to bank fraud and theft of government funds in July. Judge Peter Sheridan sentenced Lopez to 30 months in prison on Thursday.

According to the Department of Justice, Lopez obtained a fraudulent Social Security number before the pandemic began and used it to open a fake bank account for a nonexistent business. Lopez then proceeded to deposit government Covid funds into the account, from which he transferred and withdrew the monies for personal use.

Lopez's arrest was first announced in April, when the DOJ said he "falsely represented" having a company with dozens of employees in order to obtain hundreds of thousands of dollars in Covid-19 emergency funds.

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