Federal courthouse building in Evansville, Indiana (photo courtesy of Google Maps).
On Monday, October 23, the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of Indiana announced that Robert K. Hall, 73, of Bloomington, Indiana, has been sentenced to 41 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to a massive conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering. This decision was reached in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana located in Evansville, Indiana.
From September 2019 to December 2020, Hall conspired with other unnamed fraudsters to deceive numerous businesses into transferring funds to them via business email compromise schemes. They proceeded to launder the stolen money into his own bank accounts. He also worked to defraud multiple states and the Small Business Administration by taking advantage of COVID-19 loan and unemployment programs.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office confirmed multiple instances of Hall’s crimes with the backing of the U.S. Secret Service, who opened their own investigation into the cases which they suspected were connected. The sentence was given by U.S. District Court Judge Richard L. Young, who also imposed that Hall be under the supervision of the U.S.
Probation Office for 3 years following release from his 41-month commitment to federal prison.
“This defendant played a critical role in multiple fraud schemes, including stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from vital relief programs created to support individuals and businesses in the midst of a global pandemic,” said Zachary A. Myers, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana. Myers went on to thank the U.S. Secret Service for their efforts to bring Hall and fraudsters like him to justice and assured the public that his office will continue to investigate and prosecute those who have taken or continue to take advantage of COVID-19 relief programs.
In September 2019, an employee of Victim Business 1 received a fraudulent email appearing to represent a recognized vendor that the business was already in connection with. The purported vendor claimed that, due to an audit found in the primary bank account, all future payments should be made to a different, second account. This second account received a total of $113,550 from Victim Business 1. That account belonged to Hall under the guise of an electric company.
In July 2020, a fraudulent application was submitted to the Small Business Administration for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan without the purported beneficiaries' knowledge or consent. This occurred after the passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), which provided direct economic assistance for American workers, families, small businesses, and industries affected by the pandemic. The proceeds of the loan requested by the fraudulent application were deposited into one of Hall’s personal accounts.
Similarly, Hall and his co-conspirators submitted fraudulent applications for three Economic Injury Disaster Loans using the names of an individual and two businesses, after which the benefits were also deposited into a personal account of Hall’s.
Between May 2020 and December 2020, more than a dozen individuals applied for unemployment benefits in the states of Washington, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, Colorado, and Arizona. The unemployment benefits were deposited into accounts belonging to Hall, who then dispersed the loot to his co-conspirators, as he had stolen said individuals’ identities and in filing for unemployment in their names received an untold amount of money.
Hall retained roughly 20% of the fraudulent funds deposited into his accounts for his efforts to successfully carry out the schemes, with the remainder of the money going to his co-conspirators through paper checks and Bitcoin purchases. Hall attempted to steal a total of $668,746 over the course of 15 months. However, because some of the fraudulent transactions were blocked or reversed, Hall received only $339,868 successfully through the wire fraud schemes.
“Hall and his co-conspirators took advantage of government programs intended to assist small businesses and individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Jeffrey R. Adams, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Secret Service Indianapolis Field Office. “The Secret Service remains committed to aggressively pursuing fraudsters who target the financial infrastructure of the United States.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Indiana has requested that anyone with information regarding allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.