By Jan Wolfe
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department on Tuesday brought its first criminal charges against people it accused of defrauding the $660 billion Paycheck Protection Program aimed at dulling the coronavirus pandemic’s heavy hit on the economy.
The small-business loan program is part of an unprecedented $2.2 trillion coronavirus economic package meant to reimburse businesses and households for lost income due to shutdowns and stay-at-home orders.
David Staveley, 52, of Andover, Massachusetts said he needed more than $400,000 to help employees at three restaurants, when in fact two of the establishments were closed before the pandemic began and the third has a different owner, prosecutors alleged.
Prosecutors said David Butziger, 51, of Warwick, Rhode Island lied about the number of employees at a small business to obtain a forgivable $105,000 loan.
The two men exchanged emails about how to create fraudulent loan…