FORT SMITH, Ark. (KTVE/KARD) — A West Monroe native and his wife have both pleaded guilty to charges stemming from their attempts to illegally obtain pandemic relief funds.
44-year-old James Read, better known as “Snowbird Bob”, and his wife 42-year-old Crystal Payne, pleaded guilty to the charges in the U.S. District Court in Fort Smith, Arkansas.
According to the plea agreement, Read applied for Payment Protection Program (PPP) funds during the pandemic. In that application, Read gave inflated wage and employee data about his business, Snowbird Bob LLC, and also provided falsified tax documents. Read also admitted to laundering the PPP loan to buy a new vehicle.
Read also pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud for trying to get unemployment benefits for himself and others in Louisiana. Read falsely stated that he lived and worked in Louisiana, even though he lives in Mountain Home, Arkansas.
Payne pleaded guilty to a single count for false statements she made in her own PPP loan application.
Both Read and Payne’s sentencings will be later determined by the court. Read is facing a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a fine up to $1,000,000. Payne faces up to 5 years in prison and a fine up to $250,000.
The case was investigated by the IRS-Criminal Investigations, the FBI, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, and the Small Business Administration. Assistant United States Attorney Hunter Bridges is prosecuting the case.