Leesburg Man Pleads Guilty to COVID-19 Relief Fraud, Faces 20 Years

In a striking revelation of fraudulent activity tied to the federal COVID-19 relief efforts, a Leesburg resident has admitted to engaging in wire fraud through deceptive practices aimed at exploiting the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Russell Laraway, 56, an Army Reserve officer, exploited the PPP—a lifeline intended to support businesses, nonprofits, and various entities during the pandemic—by submitting fraudulent loan applications for his two Virginia-based companies, Loudoun Innovation LLC (LI LLC) and Commonwealth Commerce LLC (CC LLC).

Court documents reveal that starting in April 2020, Laraway, operating out of his Leesburg home, grossly misrepresented the employee count, payroll expenses, and revenues for both entities. His deceit did not stop at obtaining the loans; Laraway further attempted to secure loan forgiveness by falsely affirming the use of funds for authorized purposes like payroll, when in fact, he diverted the funds for personal gain and dubious investment endeavors. In total, Laraway unlawfully acquired four PPP loans amounting to roughly $488,952, a portion of which was sent to foreign entities as part of scams Laraway fell victim to.

With sentencing slated for July 25, Laraway now faces the grim prospect of up to 20 years behind bars, although federal sentencing practices might result in a less severe penalty. This case serves as a stark reminder of the challenges and abuses faced by emergency relief programs during times of crisis, highlighting the need for vigilance and integrity in the management and utilization of such vital financial support