Man sentenced in COVID-19 relief business loan fraud case

A man who faked suicide and went on the run to avoid prosecution for fraudulently seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars in coronavirus pandemic relief loans intended for struggling small businesses was sentenced Thursday to nearly five years in prison.

David Staveley, 54, of Andover, Massachusetts, and an accomplice were the first people in the country accused of fraudulently seeking Paycheck Protection Program loans when they were first charged in May 2020, the U.S. attorney’s office in Rhode Island said in a statement.

Staveley — who also goes by Kurt David Sanborn or David Sanborn — and David Andrew Butziger, 53, of Warwick, Rhode Island, filed four fraudulent loan applications with a Rhode Island bank, claiming they owned businesses with large monthly payrolls, prosecutors said.

RELATED: Man defrauded Amazon of nearly $300k in return scheme, DOJ says

Combined, they sought nearly $550,000 in loans for two Warwick, Rhode Island, restaurants and a third restaurant in Berlin, Massachusetts, as well as a wireless company.

Staveley had no ownership interest in the restaurants, which were closed at the time the loan applications were submitted, prosecutors said. The wireless company had no employees and no wages were ever paid by the business, prosecutors said.

Staveley originally pleaded not guilty in May 2020 and was released to home confinement, but he removed his GPS monitor and fled, according to a previous statement from the U.S. Marshals Service.

His vehicle was found near a beach in Quincy, Massachusetts, unlocked with the key in the ignition, and his wallet, credit cards and driver’s license inside. He also told associates he was going to kill himself, authorities said.

RELATED: Woman allegedly goes on shopping spree after receiving $150K COVID-19 loan

But no evidence was found that he had taken his own life, and marshals concluded that Staveley faked his death.

Using false identities and stolen license plates, he traveled to several states before authorities caught up with him in Alpharetta, Georgia, on July 23, 2020, prosecutors said.

At the time of his arrest, he had multiple forms of identification bearing different names, authorities said.

Staveley pleaded guilty in May 2021 to conspiring to commit bank fraud and failure to appear in court.

Butziger, who pleaded guilty in September 2020 to conspiracy to commit bank fraud, is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 1.