A candidate for State Assembly who previously said he hoped to return money that he was caught stealing from the unemployment fund, may be facing state and federal indictments over his thievery, numerous counts of perjury related to weekly benefit claims that had been falsified, and bank fraud related to his receipt of thousands of dollars in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans issued to help businesses get through the COVID-19 pandemic.
After he filed petitions to run for the General Assembly, Rev. Reginald Atkins publicly admitted that he neglected to report income –totaling more than $15,500– each week he falsely claimed to qualify for unemployment benefit payments beginning in 2018 and continuing through some point in 2019.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) and state authorities do not make certain information public within a limited time around elections, in order to prevent any appearance that the criminal justice system is trying to influence political decisions.
Benefit recipients must certify under penalty of perjury certain facts before they are issued unemployment payments. Whether Atkins repays the money or not, he would have to face justice for lying about his work and wages each time he falsely certified that he was entitled to collect unemployment benefits.
PPP loans were designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on payroll, but Atkins applied for and received funds without have a qualified payroll expense.
Atkins is listed as a sole proprietor of a business located at 129 Chestnut Street in Roselle, New Jersey. Records show that the business received a Coronavirus-related PPP loan of $8,041.00 from the federal Small Business Administration (SBA) in May, 2020. The federal loan to Atkins was processed through Square Capital, LLC.
Atkins may be one among many who are guilty of defrauding the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a federal initiative designed to help businesses pay their employees and meet their basic expenses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sources tell NJTODAY.NET that Atkins could be facing charges of 18 U.S.C. § 1343 (Wire Fraud), 18 U.S.C. § 1344(2) (Bank Fraud), 18 U.S.C. § 1014 (False Statements to a Financial Institution), and 15 U.S.C. § 645(a) (False Statements to the Small Business Administration).
“On March 27, 2020, the U.S. President signed a $2 trillion stimulus bill called the CARES Act, which was intended to ameliorate the economic impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic (Pub. L. 116-136,” said Cole Ashcraft, a special agent with the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration( TIGTA ). “The CARES legislation authorized up to $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses to pay their employees during the pandemic. On or around April 2020, Congress authorized up to $310 billion of additional funding.”
“Small businesses and sole proprietorships have applied for PPP relief through one of over 4,900 SBA designated lending institutions,” said Ashcraft. “To apply, applicants must complete and transmit to the lender an SBA Form 2483, which requires the applicant to identify the entity’s average monthly payroll, as calculated according to the requirements of the CARES Act.”
Ashcraft explained that a comparison with records obtained from the IRS demonstrate reveals that documents provided in support of the PPP loan application were falsified and included false statements about the business’ operations.
Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Criminal Division, together with administration officials, announces new charges and progress in Paycheck Protection Program Fraud Cases
Atkins said he initially claimed unemployment benefits following the loss of one of three or four jobs he had held in 2018 but he did not offer any excuse for providing false information about collecting wages each week or why he would qualify for the federal loan program with meeting criteria as an employer.
Rev. Reginald Atkins failed to report income while he accepted unemployment benefit payments, but the former Roselle mayor is trying to cover up the incident so it does not become a topic of controversy as he seeks election the the state Legislature in the June 8 Democratic primary.
The candidate admits that he collected unemployment benefits for several months after losing his job Tata Communications, an India-based telecommunications company, in 2018.
Atkins was laid off in 2018 from when he his job in 2018 following a reduction of employees based in the United States.
A former Roselle interim mayor, Atkins seeking an open seat in the 20th Legislative District in a six-way Democratic primary.
As a result of losing his full-time job, Atkins applied for benefits to help with the loss of his full-time job. He found a new job in early 2019 and notified the state that he no longer needed the assistance.
When he applied for government funds, Atkins neglected to report his $15,000 annual part-time salary as a councilman and the $500 he received as a member of the Linden Roselle Sewerage Authority.
Those income sources should have been included in the calculation of Atkins’ unemployment payments.
Atkins is a also proprietor of a business in Roselle, that received a Coronavirus-related PPP loan from the SBA of $8,041 in May, 2020.
Based on the standard PPP eligibility formula, in order to qualify for the loan amount he received, Reginald Atkins’ 2019 payroll expenses are estimated to be at least $38,597.
Celtic Bank Corporation approved the PPP loan for Atkins on May 18, 2020. If he meets certain requirements, Atkins would not have to repay taxpayers for the loan, under terms of the CARES Act, a law enacted by former President Donald Trump in March 2020.
To mitigate the political damage to himself and his running mate Senator Joe Cryan in the upcoming Democratic primary election, Atkins claims that he is repaying the total amount he received.
The candidate who improperly collected unemployment benefits is facing still opposition from Christian Veliz, of Elizabeth, and former Councilwoman Diane Murray-Clements, of Hillside, who are allies of Democratic Assemblyman Jamel Holley.
To bring state representation back to Elizabeth, Hillside, Roselle and Union Township, Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-20) and his Union County Democratic allies recruited Christian Veliz and Diane Murray-Clements to run for Assembly in the upcoming primary election.
Veliz, of Elizabeth, who earned a graduate degree from Harvard University, worked for the United States Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, to ensure a fair count among people of color, minority groups and recent arrivals to the United States. As a bilingual, leadership-orientated professional, Veliz has unparalleled financial and business acumen, making him ideal as a state legislator, Holley said.
Veliz served as Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage’s representative on the Elizabeth Public Library Board of Trustees and as a volunteer community services coordinator with the Archdiocese of Newark.
Murray-Clements is a former Hillside at-large councilwoman, the owner of an insurance brokerage office in Union Township, and a lifelong member of Franklin-St. John’s United Methodist Church in Newark.
Murray-Clements hosts a popular podcast with a national audience, titled “It’s a Sure Thing,” in which she highlights business owners and discusses their issues. Murray-Clements has held membership in many ministries including Modern Gospel Choir, Girl Scouts as a Troop Leader, and as a trustee of her church.
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