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Monterey chef accused of fraud involving millions in COVID-19 relief funds

PIX Now morning edition 1-29-24
PIX Now morning edition 1-29-24 13:56

MONTEREY – A Monterey chef was indicted Thursday for alleged fraud involving COVID relief funds, the U.S. Department of Justice said. 

The grand jury indictment charged Dory Ford, 57, with bank and wire fraud along with money laundering. 

Ford operated an established catering company called Aqua Terra Culinary, Inc. in Pacific Grove.

During the pandemic, Ford applied for and received about $4 million in loans and grants from the Paycheck Protection Program, the Restaurant Revitalization Fund and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program. These plans either awarded or loaned funding to restaurants, bars and similar businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic or other disasters. 

Ford is accused of getting millions of dollars in these funds by using false and fraudulent "representations, promises, and omissions" and of concealing material facts. 

Prosecutors allege that Ford used COVID-19 loan and grant money to buy properties in Belize, to invest in the stock market, and to fund a different business venture instead of using the money to for proper expenses, such as payroll, rent or mortgage payments, and supplies. 

According to Ford's LinkedIn page, in 2021 the chef started a business around mushrooms.

"Although the pandemic had an impact on the hospitality industry, Dory used this opportunity to create MycoSci," reads the post. MycoSci "cultivates, creates and tests the highest quality health and wellness supplements grounded in the incredible power of mushrooms."

If convicted, Ford is facing a maximum sentence of 30 years in federal prison and a fine of $1 million for bank fraud, 60 years in prison and a fine of $750,000 for three counts of wire fraud, and a maximum of ten years in prison and a fine of $250,000 for two counts of money laundering. 

Ford is next scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 31.  

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