The Mississippi business owner is accused in federal court of stealing more than $ 1.25 million in coronavirus stimulus funds.

Leonard Ohaebosim, director of Spite The Movie, LLC, faces fraud charges in Florida which alleges he created – from scratch – a team of more than 100 employees to bill the government for relief funds against coronaviruses.

Federal prosecutors say that Ohaebosim then requested and received more than $ 1.25 million in funds through the federal CARES Act. The federal stimulus bill was designed to help businesses weather the coronavirus pandemic.

Film company registered at Miss.

Despite the film is presented as a film and video production company.

In addition to being registered in Florida, Ohaebosim is listed as a business owner of the same name in Mississippi, according to the archives of the secretary of state.

The company was registered in January 2020, although no office address has been reported. Curtis Nichouls, who lists an address in Jackson, is appointed as the company’s registered agent.

Nichouls on Thursday called the allegations against Spite The Movie “completely bogus” and said the company has more than 100 employees, which is the standard for producing a movie. He said he feared negative comments would prevent him from continuing his film production business in Mississippi.

Ohaebosim was arrested in his home state of Texas before his case was extradited to Dade County in Miami, where he now faces a misrepresentation to a financial institution and bank fraud charges, according to a press release from the US District Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.

In the federal complaint

In the criminal complaint, a senior federal investigator says there are probable reasons to believe that Ohaebosim has targeted the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP.

To apply for the loan, business owners are required to report average monthly salary expenses, number of employees, and other documents to the bank funding the loan. Normally, these numbers would correlate with the numbers reported to the IRS.

However, banks and the SBA are not required to compare loan applications to IRS documents. Despite this, Ohabosim offered the banks a fake IRS Form 941, which documents quarterly payroll and federal income tax, according to the complaint. Prosecutors say the IRS has no record of this Form 941 and allege that this is how Ohaebosim initially slipped through the cracks. .

In April, according to the federal government, Ohaebosim filed fraudulent claims with two banks. In the request, he claimed that the company employed more than 100 employees in February and March and that he paid an average monthly salary of $ 500,000 to these employees.

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Employees oblivious to Spite The Movie

Prosecutors have contacted at least five of the employees listed as working at Spite The Movie. In each case, the alleged employees said they never received any funds and did not know the company. Assistant US Attorney Michael Berger, who is overseeing the case, did not give a specific number on the number of people working at Spite The Movie, but said it was less than 10 employees.

The loan amount for Spite The Movie was approved on May 29, according to a Propublica database.

Berger said the case has stalled since it was originally taken to court in September due to coronavirus security measures. He said the federal government will pursue the case as soon as a grand jury is allowed to hear the case.

As of November 18, no lawyer had filed any documents with the court to represent Ohaebosim.

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Separate trial

According to federal court records, Ohaebosim is also being sued in Texas by eight former employees who say they deprived them of their salary related to another film and video production company, called The Freshman Year Movie LLC.

The LLC appears to have been formed as a business entity behind “The Freshman Year”, a film produced in October and November 2019, according to the IMDb online movie site.

The film is described as a “coming-of-age story about a suburban black child who has his first year at an HBCU.”

The former employees, who made up the film’s production team, are suing Ohaebosim for a salary of up to $ 200,000, the lawsuit said.

For a list of all Mississippi businesses that have received federal relief, go here.

Correction: A previous version of this story mistakenly identified Leonard Ohaebosim as the producer of the film “Freshman Year”. Ohaebosim is listed as the executive producer of a separate and unrelated film titled “The Freshman Year”.

Ohaebosim is one of two defendants sued in Texas federal court by eight former employees for unpaid wages, court documents show. “The Freshman Year” has no connection with the production or the “Freshman Year” crew.

Contact Justin Vicory at 769-572-1418 or [email protected]. To follow @justinvicory on Twitter.

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