Chesterland man sentenced to jail for COVID-19 relief fraud


Robert Bearden was sentenced to one year in prison and ordered to pay $62,296.70 in restitution.

CHESTERLAND, Ohio – A 49-year-old Geauga County man was sentenced to one year and a prison term and ordered to pay $62,296.70 in restitution after pleading guilty to COVID-19 relief fraud.

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Robert Bearden, of Chesterland, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Donald C. Nugent on Thursday after initially pleading guilty to four counts in November. Bearden was accused of devising a scheme to fraudulently obtain approximately $60,000 in Economic Injury Loans (EIDLs) from the United States Small Business Administration (SBA) under the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) in July 2020. He was charged on three counts of wire fraud and one count of theft of public funds a year later.

As part of his scheme, Bearden allegedly submitted three fraudulent EIDL loan applications through the Small Business Administration’s online application portal, which were approved for a total of approximately $60,000 in disbursed funds. Bearden used false information on applications about existing and non-existing companies and the names of third parties in exchange for a bribe of a portion of the funds received.

Bearden also allegedly used the personal identifying information of people seeking government pandemic assistance to submit loan applications on their behalf, but then directed the funds to his own account, including one of the three loans which have been approved.

Bearden’s case was investigated by the FBI and the IRS Criminal Investigations Unit. He was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Elliot D. Morrison and Brian M. McDonough.


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