Texas man who created fake church to fraudulently obtain fake car, COVID-19 loans sentenced to over 8 years in prison
HOUSTON — A Texas man who created a fake church to fraudulently obtain car loans and forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act was sentenced Nov. 30 to more than eight years in federal prison following an investigation by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Houston, the Small Business Administration’s Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.
William Dexter Lucas, 61, was convicted in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and was sentenced to 97 months in federal prison to be immediately followed by five years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay $286,359.14 in restitution to the Small Business Administration and car dealerships that were victimized by his scheme. Lucas pleaded guilty to the charges on Dec. 8, 2022.
In handing down the sentence, the court noted how far Lucas went to steal from his victims, including forging multiple documents and manipulating potential witnesses against him. The court also heard additional evidence describing Lucas’ lengthy criminal history and refusal to acknowledge portions of his guilt.
At the time of his plea, Lucas admitted to conspiring with several others to defraud car dealerships and the U.S. government from around 2017 to 2020. To facilitate his scheme, Lucas set up and claimed to operate the “Jesus Survives Ministry,” a church that existed only on paper. Upholding the title of “pastor” of the nonexistent church, Lucas applied for a $50,000 Paycheck Protection Program loan to cover the fictitious payroll needs.
Using one of roughly 20 different known aliases, Lucas applied for multiple car loans by submitting various fraudulent forms and financial statements. The scheme cost the Small Business Administration and various car dealerships more than $400,000.
When authorities began investigating Lucas’s crimes, he attempted to cover them up by filing false claims of stolen identity with the Federal Trade Commission.
Previously released on bond, Lucas was ordered into custody following the sentencing where he will remain pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Carter and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Zahra Fenelon prosecuted the case.
For more news and information on HSI’s efforts to aggressively investigate COVID-19-related fraud and other financial crime in Southeast Texas, follow us on X, formerly known as Twitter, @HSIHouston.
Anyone with information about suspected COVID-19-related fraud or other criminal activity is encouraged to report it to HSI by emailing the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) S.T.O.P. COVID-19 Fraud Tipline at email@example.com.
HSI is the principal investigative arm of DHS, responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel and finance move. HSI’s workforce of more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’ largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.