Berwick man charged with illegally obtaining over $400,000 in COVID-19 relief funds

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SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania says a Berwick man has been charged with attempting to obtain over $400,000 in COVID-19 relief funds.

According to a press release from Acting U.S. Attorney Bruce D. Brandler, Hayes D. Horner, Jr., 67, of Berwick, was arrested for trying to fraudulently obtain over $400,000 in COVID-19 relief funds. The funds are guaranteed by the Small Business Administration through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program. The EIDL program is designed specifically to help small businesses facing financial hardships during the pandemic.

Horner, along with his co-conspirators attempted to obtain EIDL funds by opening two fraudulent bank accounts in the names of unknowing people, the release says.

Brandler says, Horner allegedly withdrew around $60,000 and unsuccessfully attempted to wire around $165,000 in fraudulently obtained EIDL funds to other accounts under his co-conspirator’s control.

The FBI investigated the case, seizing over $100,000 in fraudulently obtained EIDL funds from an account under Horner’s control. Assistant U.S. Attorney Phillip J. Caraballo is prosecuting the case.

According to Brandler, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force, with resources from different departments across the government to combat efforts and prevent pandemic-related fraud.

Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 is asked to report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via web complaint form.

Horner and his constituents are facing a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

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