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Lithonia Man Charged With Defrauding $1.5 Million From USDA's COVID Relief Program

ATLANTA, Ga. (CW69 News at 10)  - Christopher A. Hayes, 35, of Lithonia, made an initial appearance on federal charges of making a false claim to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), , according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia.

According to Acting U.S. Attorney Kurt R. Erskine, the charges, and other information presented in court:

  • Hayes was charged with submitting a false claim to the USDA's CFAP for the claimed loss of livestock at his commercial farming operation.  CFAP provided direct relief to producers who faced price declines and additional marketing costs due to COVID-19.
  • Hayes allegedly did not own or operate a commercial farming operation and did not have losses associated with any livestock when he made a claim under CFAP.
  • In addition, Hayes allegedly submitted a fraudulent IRS Form 7200, which, when used legitimately, allows an employer to request an advance payment of employer credits under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).  The FFCRA provides small and midsize employers refundable tax credits that reimburse them, dollar-for-dollar, for the cost of providing paid sick and family leave wages to their employees for leave related to COVID-19.
  • In total, Hayes allegedly attempted to obtain over $1.5 million in COVID-19 relief funding.

Members of the public are reminded that the information only contains charges.  The defendant is presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government's burden to prove the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.

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