A 2020 Republican congressional candidate pleaded guilty to using COVID-19 relief funds for personal expenditures and falsifying records to conceal thousands of dollars of in-kind contributions by employees in a report to the Federal Elections Commission (FEC).
According to court documents, in 2020, Nicholas Jones, 36, of Boise, Idaho, a small business owner, applied for and received COVID-19 relief funds, including through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL), totaling $753,600.
Despite certifying that these funds would only be used for business-related expenditures, Jones used a significant portion of those funds for personal expenses, including car payments, life insurance policies, and political advertisements.
In 2020, the self-described “serial entrepreneur” Jones ran as a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives against incumbent Rep. Russ Fulcher in a May 19 Republican primary for Idaho’s First Congressional District seat.
Jones told employees of his small business that they could continue to be paid their normal wages if they worked on his congressional campaign.
Employees reported to work on behalf of Jones’s congressional campaign and were paid thousands of dollars in wages through Jones’s small business including, in part, with funds Jones had received as part of a PPP loan.
After losing the primary election, Jones caused his campaign committee to file a campaign finance report with the FEC, which omitted any in-kind contributions from any entity or individual other than Jones, including the thousands of dollars of in-kind contributions to his campaign in the form of employee time and work.
Jones pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court of Idaho to wire fraud and falsification of records.
Jones will be sentenced at a later date. Jones faces a maximum total penalty of 40 years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Rafael M. Gonzalez, Jr., for the District of Idaho; and Special Agent in Charge Dennis Rice of the FBI’s Salt Lake City Field Office made the announcement.
The FBI is investigating the case.
“The CARES Act is 880 pages of outrage and corruption, that gave Republican President Donald Trump a $6 trillion slush fund without adequate oversight or guidance to prevent abuses,” said Lisa McCormick, who was among the few who spoke out against the massive spending bill. “Instead of stabilizing the economy, it enriches the rich and insults the 99 percent of Americans who follow the rules. This is worse than the TARP bailouts under Bush.”
“The Paycheck Protection Program is one of the most deceptive parts of the CARES Act, but the program might as well have been administered by the Trump campaign organization instead of the Small Business Administration,” said McCormick, who showed the unfairness of loan allocations, which clearly favored states that voted for Trump in the 2016 election. “The CARES Act is a $6 trillion slush fund that will benefit Republican President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign and it was approved almost unanimously by Democrats in Congress, even though it won’t help many people in Princeton or Plainfield.”