Vermont Pair Indicted for Allegedly Defrauding COVID-19 Small Business Loan Programs to Fund Crypto Investments

News | June 26, 2024 By:

On Tuesday, June 18, 2024, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Vermont announced that Bounthavong Sonthikoummane, 42, and Ashlyn Arcouette, 32, both of White River Junction, Vermont, were indicted by a federal grand jury on charges related to fraudulently obtaining loans meant to provide pandemic relief for small businesses.

The 11-count indictment charges Sonthikoummane with bank fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy, money laundering, and making false statements. Arcouette was charged with wire fraud, conspiracy, and money laundering. The defendants are accused of submitting false information on applications for loans from the Economic Injury Disaster Loan and Paycheck Protection Program between July 2020 and February 2021.

Specifically, Sonthikoummane allegedly applied for and received two PPP loans and one EIDL loan totaling over $117,000 by falsely representing that the funds would be used to operate independent contracting businesses. However, according to the indictment, most of the loan money was used to invest in Coinbase, a cryptocurrency exchange platform. Arcouette also allegedly obtained an EIDL loan for $56,900 with Sonthikoummane’s assistance by providing false information on the application.

Additionally, Sonthikoummane submitted fake IRS forms containing false financial details about the businesses. He was also accused of fraudulently certifying that one of the PPP loans was used for eligible business expenses in order to get it forgiven. The indictment seeks forfeiture of a White River Junction property that Sonthikoummane allegedly purchased with unlawfully acquired loan money.

If convicted, Sonthikoummane and Arcouette each face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and fines up to $250,000. Their actual sentences will be determined based on federal guidelines and statutory factors.