A former Congressional candidate pleaded guilty today for using COVID-19 relief funds for personal expenditures and for falsifying records to conceal thousands of dollars of in-kind contributions by employees in a report to the Federal Elections Commission (FEC).
According to court documents, in 2020, Nicholas Jones, 36, of Boise, Idaho, a small business owner, applied for and received COVID-19 relief funds, including through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL), totaling $753,600. Despite certifying that these funds would only be used for business-related expenditures, Jones used a significant portion of the funds for personal expenses, including car payments, life insurance policies, and political advertisements.
In 2020, Jones ran as a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives. Jones told employees of his small business that they could continue to be paid their normal wages if they worked on his congressional campaign. Employees reported to work on behalf of Jones’s congressional campaign and were paid thousands of dollars in wages through Jones’s small business including, in part, with funds Jones had received as part of a PPP loan. After losing the primary election, Jones caused his campaign committee to file a campaign finance report with the FEC, which omitted any in-kind contributions from any entity or individual other than Jones, including the thousands of dollars of in-kind contributions to his campaign in the form of employee time and work.
Jones pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court of Idaho to wire fraud and falsification of records. Jones will be sentenced at a later date. Jones faces a maximum total penalty of 40 years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Rafael M. Gonzalez, Jr., for the District of Idaho; and Special Agent in Charge Dennis Rice of the FBI’s Salt Lake City Field Office made the announcement.
The FBI is investigating the case.
Trial Attorneys Rosaleen O’Gara and Nicole Lockhart of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Josh Hurwit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Idaho are prosecuting the case.