Hilo man pleads guilty to defrauding federal pandemic relief programs

A Hilo man pleaded guilty in federal court today to attempting to fraudulently obtain federal COVID-19 relief funds.

Carey Mills, 43, faces a maximum possible sentence of 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million on a charge of wire fraud after he sent fraudulent documents to receive multiple loans through a pair of federal pandemic relief programs.

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According to a news release from the U.S. Department of Justice, Mills submitted multiple applications for funds through the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program during the pandemic.

To support those applications, Mills submitted fraudulent tax forms and payroll documents, including falsified employee and wage records.

Through these fraudulent applications, Mills was able to receive a total of $937,575 for three businesses — Kanaka Maoli Hookupu Center, New Way Horizon Travel, and Uilani Kawailehua Foundation — through two forgivable PPP loans, one EIDL loan and one EIDL grant.

“Congress funded the PPP and EIDL programs to provide a financial lifeline to struggling small businesses in Hawaii and across the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said U.S. Attorney and former Hawaii Attorney General Clare E. Connors in a statement. “Unfortunately, bad actors have targeted these critical assistance programs and fraudulently diverted much-needed resources. Our office will investigate all allegations of unlawful use of these funds and is committed to ensuring federal taxpayer dollars are used for their intended purpose.”

Mills’ sentencing is scheduled to take place Oct. 4.