Trucking company owner, former reality TV star gets 17 years in prison for Ponzi scheme, PPP loan fraud

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Trucking news and briefs for Monday, Sept. 20, 2021:

Small-fleet owner, reality TV star sentenced for PPP fraud, Ponzi scheme

Maurice Fayne, who starred in the reality TV series “Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta” and owned Flame Trucking, has been sentenced to more than 17 years in federal prison for conspiracy and wire fraud related to a Ponzi scheme, and for bank fraud and making false statements to a financial institution related to a fraudulent Paycheck Protection Program loan application.

According to Acting U.S. Attorney Kurt R. Erskine, from March 2013 through May 2020, Fayne ran a multistate Ponzi scheme that defrauded more than 20 people who invested in his trucking business. Fayne promised that he would use the investors’ money to operate the business, but instead, he used the money to pay his personal debts and expenses and to fund an extravagant lifestyle for himself. During the scheme, Fayne spent more than $5 million at a casino in Oklahoma.

In April 2020, Fayne submitted a $3.7 million PPP loan application to United Community Bank, falsely claiming that his trucking business had 107 employees and an average monthly payroll of $1,490,200. Fayne promised to use the PPP loan proceeds to retain workers and maintain payroll or make mortgage interest payments, lease payments, and utility payments related to his trucking business.

According to Erskine, however, Fayne used the PPP loan proceeds to pay child support and restitution owed in a previous fraud case, buy custom-made jewelry, lease a Rolls-Royce, pay associates who helped him in the Ponzi scheme and start a new business in Arkansas.

Fayne was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Mark H. Cohen to 17 years, six months in prison to be followed by five years of supervised release and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $4,465,865.55 to the victims. Fayne was convicted on these charges on May 11, 2021, after he pleaded guilty.

Border Patrol stops truck with 50 immigrants in trailer near Laredo

Border Patrol agents assigned to the Freer Station near Laredo, Texas, rescued almost 50 people who were found during an alleged human smuggling attempt locked inside a trailer near Freer, Texas.

The incident occurred shortly after midnight on Sept. 15, when a tractor-trailer approached the checkpoint on U.S. Highway 59. During primary inspection, a service canine alerted agents to the cargo. The agents then referred the trailer to a secondary inspection for further inspection. 

During the inspection, agents discovered nearly 50 individuals locked inside the trailer, where the interior temperature was more than 90 degrees Fahrenheit. All individuals were in the U.S. illegally and were from the countries of Mexico, Guatemala, and El Salvador.