Fulton County businessman pleads guilty to COVID relief fraud

PEORIA − A Fulton County man faces up to 30 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to fraud related to pandemic economic assistance programs.

Michael L. Patch, 65, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Peoria to bank fraud and wire fraud in connection with schemes to get money he wasn't entitled to from the Paycheck Protection Program and the COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan program.

A federal grand jury indicted Patch in September 2021, alleging he inflated the profits of now-defunct Vernon Street Grill, located in Farmington, to get more money from the government.

"Through the use of these fraudulent figures, Patch was able to qualify for funding from the PPP and the EIDL programs and to qualify to receive greater amounts of money from these programs than he otherwise would have been entitled to receive," the indictment states.

The charges further stated he overpaid his employees and then directed to them to give him the excess money back in cash "to hide his personal receipt of PPP funds," the indictment states.

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Patch remains free on bond pending his sentencing Feb. 9, 2023.

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This article originally appeared on Journal Star: Illinois man pleads guilty to PPP fraud charges, COVID loan scam