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Man accused of using $2.9 million in fraudulent COVID relief funds to start company that deleted emissions controls on big rigs

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A Missouri man and his truck repair company were indicted on multiple counts related to a scheme that involved using COVID-19 relief funding to commit conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act.

Chris Carroll has been indicted by a federal grand jury on three counts of bank fraud, six counts of money laundering, and three counts of making false statements of a financial institution, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Missouri.

A truck repair company operated by Carroll is also facing charges. Whiskey Dix Big Truck Repair was indicted on twenty-one counts of violating the Clean Air Act.

Authorities say that Carroll and business partner George Reed submitted applications for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans in their spouse’s names. This was allegedly done to conceal Carroll’s status as a paroled felon.

The pair received two PPP loans for the company Square One Group, one in the amount of more than $1.2 million, and the second loan in the amount of more than $1.6 million.

The indictment also alleges that the men used the funds not for pay workers but instead to start a company called Whiskey Dix Big Truck Repair, and to fund $660,000 in payments to themselves. The pay and health insurance of workers was suspended following the applications for PPP funding.

The indictment further alleges that Whiskey Dix Big Truck Repair violated the Clean Air Act by unlawfully removing the emissions control systems from more than 30 diesel-powered trucks.

Additionally, authorities say that Chris Carroll asked his employees to take the fall for the Clean Air Act violations, and when one of the employees indicated that he was going to talk to federal investigators, Chris Carroll threatened not to pay for the employee’s attorney.

“Square One Group received nearly $3,000,000 in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds intended to sustain their workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis” said Assistant Special Agent in Charge Chris Crocker. “Instead, company owners Chris Carroll and George Reed allegedly used those funds to start new businesses and compensate themselves all while laying off the very staff for whom those funds were intended.”

“The defendants violated the Clean Air Act by removing devices designed specifically to reduce pollution on more than 20 heavy-duty diesel trucks,” said Special Agent in Charge Lance Ehrig of EPA’s criminal investigation program in Missouri. “Diesel exhaust not only worsens air quality, but harms people’s health, in particular people with respiratory conditions like asthma and COPD, so when these illegal trucks travel through neighborhoods they are creating serious health problems for residents.”

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the US Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division.

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