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Ballantyne market owner indicted for using COVID funds to buy cryptocurrency: US Attorney

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – “Now under new ownership.”

That sign now hangs outside the Carolina Fish Market in Ballantyne after previous owner James Seidel was indicted for COVID-19 fraud.

According to court documents, he defrauded the Small Business Administration using Economic Injury Disaster Loan funds to buy cryptocurrency.

“Anytime there’s a large amount of money available to people, there is going to be a segment of people that look for the opportunity to enrich themselves,” said Dena King, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.

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King says her office has diligently prosecuted COVID-era loan fraud. In a June report, the Small Business Administration estimated more than $200 billion had been disbursed to fraudsters, amounting to 17 percent of COVID-era loans handed out.

“There are somewhere people who did not even have legitimate businesses up until the pandemic,” King said.

While some have been near slam-dunk cases, other applications show legitimate business owners who fudged numbers on employees, the amount of money their business typically brought in, or business expenses.

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King says in some cases, they’re uncovering another layer of where the fraud was actually committed.

“There were also a number of people that touted themselves as preparers, so people could actually go to consultants or preparers who would fill out these applications on their behalf, including a number of fraudulent information to be able to help the individuals to obtain these loans, but then also these consultants, so to speak, were able to get a percentage of that,” King said.

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