A Laurel contractor admitted lying on an application for federal coronavirus relief funds on Tuesday, acknowledging he planned to use the money to pay off restitution in a separate criminal case.
Matthew Jason Welch pleaded guilty to a single count of wire fraud in U.S. District Court in Billings. Under a plea agreement, prosecutors will dismiss at sentencing a second count of wire fraud.
Welch applied for approximately $35,000 in Payroll Protection Program funds in April on behalf of his company, Welch Sole Proprietorship. The PPP funds were allocated by Congress to help businesses struggling amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Business owners are ineligible for PPP loans if they are owned 20% or more by someone with an active criminal case, on probation or parole, or with a felony conviction within the past five years.
Welch admitted Tuesday that when he applied for the funding, he knew he’d been charged with felony deceptive practices in Stillwater County District Court. In that case, he’s accused taking $31,800 in total from three separate households for home repairs without starting or completing the work. Welch has pleaded not guilty.
Welch did not plan to use the loan funds to maintain payroll but instead to help pay off restitution in one of his felony cases, according to the government. Welch said in court Tuesday he did not object to that assertion.
Welch is still facing a string of charges alleging he accepted tens of thousands of dollars in prepayment for home repair work he did not complete. In addition to the Stillwater County case, he has active cases in Musselshell County, Yellowstone County and Campbell County, Wyoming.
Welch has denied the charges.