Reality TV star and rapper Maurice “Mo” Fayne has been sentenced to 17.5 years behind bars for operating a multi-million Ponzi scheme and stealing more than $2 million in COVID-19 relief funds — which he then used to fund his scam and lease a Rolls-Royce.
The “Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta” star was handed the lengthy federal prison sentence after pleading guilty to conspiracy and wire fraud charges in May, the US Attorney’s Office said Wednesday.
He was also ordered to pay $4,465,865.55 in restitution to victims.
In April 2020, Fayne submitted a $3.7 million Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan application to United Community Bank — falsely claiming that he needed the funds to pay the 107 employees of his trucking business “Flame Trucking,” which was struggling during the pandemic.
Fayne ended up receiving a little over $2 million in relief funds, which prosecutors said he squandered on glitzy jewelry, fast cars, and running his multistate Ponzi scheme.
“Fayne planned to use the PPP program as a cover for his long-running Ponzi scheme,” said Acting US Attorney Kurt R. Erskine. “The funds the program supplies serve as a lifeline to many businesses desperately trying to stay afloat during the pandemic, and unfortunately his fraud helped deplete those precious dollars.”
Instead, prosecutors said Fayne spent $85,000 on jewelry for himself, including a Rolex Presidential watch, a diamond bracelet, and a 5.73 carat diamond ring.
He spent a further $136,000 to lease a Rolls-Royce Wraith, and withdrew $65,000 in cash.
The rapper, who goes by the name “Arkansas Mo,” also used $230,000 of the fraudulent loan to prop up his Ponzi scheme that ripped off more than 20 investors in the trucking business between March 2013 and May 2020, prosecutors said.
The reality TV star then cleared his personal debts, which included $40,000 for past-due child support and $50,000 for restitution owed in a previous fraud case.
“This sentence should serve notice that the FBI and our federal partners will investigate anyone who misdirects federal emergency assistance earmarked for businesses who need it to stay afloat,” Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta Chris Hacker said.
“We won’t tolerate anyone driven by personal greed to pocket American taxpayer money that should be going to those who need it.”
During the course of the Ponzi scheme, Fayne spent more than $5 million at a casino in Oklahoma, the US attorney’s office said.
After Fayne lied to federal agents about spending the coronavirus relief funds on his business, a search of his Georgia home on May 11, 2020, uncovered approximately $80,000 in cash, including $9,400 Fayne had in his pockets.
Agents also executed seizure warrants for three bank accounts that Fayne owned or controlled and seized approximately $503,000 in PPP funds.
“Fayne planned to use the PPP program as a cover for his long-running Ponzi scheme,” Acting US Attorney Kurt R. Erskine said.
“The funds the program supplies serve as a lifeline to many businesses desperately trying to stay afloat during the pandemic, and unfortunately his fraud helped deplete those precious dollars.”