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Former Southerns owner sentenced to prison on wire fraud charges | #phishing | #scams | #hacking | #aihp

HOUSTON, Texas (KBTX) – A former restaurant owner in the Brazos Valley has been sentenced to prison on wire fraud charges, KBTX has learned.

Keith Johnson, who owned Southerns at Post Oak Mall, was sentenced Monday to 14 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release.

Prosecutors say in 2020, during the COVID pandemic, he applied for a PPP loan and lied on the application about his background.

Johnson, 46, of Bryan, said the money from the loan would be used to help pay his staff at the restaurant, which is now closed. On the application, prosecutors said Johnson lied about being under indictment for theft charges in Harris County. That made him ineligible to receive the money.

The following is the full statement sent to KBTX from the United States Attorney’s Office:

A 46-year-old Texan has been ordered to prison following his conviction of wire fraud, announced U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.

Keith Anton Johnson pleaded guilty on March 10.

Today, U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes ordered Johnson to serve 14 months in federal prison to be immediately followed by three years of supervised release. In handing down the sentence, the court considered Johnson’s fraudulent statements on multiple official documents he used to secure $123,000 in Payroll Protection Loans. Specifically, he falsely claimed he was not currently under indictment for any other crime. In imposing the sentence, Judge Hughes noted that Johnson stole not just from the government, but the taxpaying citizens of the United States who made the emergency relief possible.

At the time of his plea, Johnson admitted that in 2020, he lied on multiple documents while applying for a Payroll Protection Program (PPP) loan. At the time of his application, Johnson was under indictment in Harris County for theft over $300,000 in connection with construction fraud allegedly committed in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Johnson would have been ineligible to receive PPP funds due to that indictment.

Johnson applied for the fraudulently obtained PPP loan by claiming the loan was to be used for the employees of a bar and live music venue he owned in Bryan called Southerns. That venture failed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Johnson was permitted to remain on bond and voluntarily surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

FBI and Harris County Precinct One Constable’s Office conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas H. Carter prosecuted the case.

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