Federal authorities have charged a Houston man with a list of felonies after he allegedly swindled $1.1 million from the Paycheck Protection Program and transferred most of the cash to a cryptocurrency account.
Joshua Argires has been arrested for wire fraud, bank fraud, lying to financial institutions, and making illegal financial transactions, per a Justice Department press release.
A criminal complaint affidavit filed on July 9 by a U.S. Postal Inspector says Argires created two phantom companies, one called Texas Barbecue and the other called Houston Landscaping.
Argires allegedly claimed Texas Barbecue employed 51 people and spent $382,500 each month on payroll. He even set up a website for the company with an online store that purported to be closed due to COVID-19.
He reportedly stated that his other made-up company, Houston Landscaping, needed $192,750 per month to pay 15 employees.
Court documents say that, after receiving the loans, Argires directed $956,250 of them to an account on Coinbase, a cryptocurrency website.
The complaint details a litany of missteps by Argires that raised suspicion, including that he bungled his own scheme by providing faux tax documents with numbers that weren’t consistent with his false Houston Landscaping application.
Among other red flags, Argires reportedly never had more than $750 in his personal checking account or $1,525 in his personal savings account between December and June, which is incongruent with owning the majority of a business with hundreds of thousands of dollars in monthly payroll expenses.
Argires is presumed innocent unless the federal government proves otherwise in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.
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Hayden Sparks is a reporter for The Texan in Dallas. During the academic year, he coaches high school competitive speech and debate and has also been involved in community theater and politics. A native Texan, Hayden served as a delegate at the Republican Party of Texas Convention in 2016. He is on track to receive a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Liberty University. In his free time, Hayden is known to take walks around the neighborhood while listening to random music on Spotify.