Feds sentence Hilo man for COVID fraud scam

A federal judge on Tuesday sentenced a Hilo man to 42 months in prison for a COVID-19 fraud scam.

Chief U.S. District Judge Derrick K. Watson handed down the prison term to 47-year-old Carey Mills.


Mills pleaded guilty in May to a single count of wire fraud in connection with a scheme to defraud the federal government of program funds intended for COVID-19-related relief.

Watson also imposed a five-year term of supervised release, the federal equivalent of probation, and ordered Mills to pay restitution to the Small Business Administration in the amount of $937,575.

According to court documents and information presented in court, from May to August 2020, Mills submitted multiple applications for Payroll Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan funds on behalf of three businesses under his control — Kanaka Maoli Hookupu Center, New Way Horizon Travel and Uilani Kawailehua Foundation — each time utilizing interstate wires.

To support the applications, Mills submitted fraudulent payroll documents and IRS forms, which included false employee and wage payment records.

As a result of these applications, Mills received $937,575 in the form of three forgivable PPP loans and one EIDL grant to which he was not entitled.

At the sentencing hearing, the prosecution highlighted the fact Mills used the federal relief money to fund personal expenses, including the purchase of eight vehicles and two residential properties.

When Watson imposed the sentence, he stated: “Stealing one million dollars of federal funds is no joke.”

“Carey Mills stole federal funds that provided a lifeline to our small businesses struggling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” added U.S. Attorney Clare E. Connors. “While this is the first COVID-19 program fraud sentencing in the District of Hawaii, the department is committed to investigating and prosecuting those who, like Mills, harmed both small businesses in need of these PPP and EIDL funds as well as the taxpayers who supported these programs.”

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