Kentucky man allegedly lied to get $370,000 coronavirus loans

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An eastern Kentucky man lied about requests for $370,000 in funding from a federal program set up to help businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic, a federal grand jury has charged.

The grand jury indicted David Christopher Lewis of Harlan County in early August, but the case was sealed until recently.

Lewis faces a charge of wire fraud, for allegedly submitting documents containing false information about his businesses, and two charges of falsifying documents or procedures.

Lewis has a company called Bubba Fest LLCwhich organized events billed as “Southern Fried” Comic Cons, and another company called Elite Artists Agency LLC.

Lewis reportedly applied for loans for the two companies last year under the Paycheck Protection Program. Congress approved the program to help companies keep employees on the payroll as the coronavirus pandemic saps the economy.

Loans issued under the program were forgivable if companies retained their employees for a certain period of time.

Lewis provided false information about the two companies’ payrolls in loan applications for $195,000 to Bubba Fest and $175,000 to Elite Artists Agency, according to the indictment.

Lewis received checks payable to both companies, according to the indictment.

After federal authorities began investigating, Lewis allegedly tried to obstruct the investigation by having someone sign a backdated employment contract saying he worked for Bubba Fest in 2019 and earned $1,200 a week.

The person, identified only by the initials CK in the indictment, did not work for the company in 2019, according to the indictment.

The indictment also alleged that in response to grand jury subpoenas for his companies’ employment records, Lewis returned an affidavit saying he had hired a tax preparer in Harlan to complete loan applications; that the person assured him that the requests were accurate; and that the preparer had Lewis’ records and would not return them.

The statement was false, the grand jury charged.

Each of the three counts carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

The indictment was sealed while Lewis was not in custody in Kentucky. Police arrested him Oct. 14 in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, records show.

A South Carolina federal magistrate ordered him held without bond to face charges in Kentucky, saying there was a significant risk Lewis would abscond if released.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Kaymani West said in the order that evidence showed Lewis knew there was a warrant for his arrest in Kentucky and that he intentionally left the state and did not have the intention to return on his own.

Chuck Norris
Hundreds lined up to meet action star Chuck Norris at Bubba Fest 2019 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Photo courtesy of Chris Lewis

Lewis faces another lawsuit in federal court in Kentucky that he didn’t paid action star Chuck Norris everything he was supposed to do for Norris’ attendance at the 2019 Bubba Fest event in Knoxville, Tennessee.

In July 2020, a Texas arbitrator ordered Lewis to pay $31,050 under the appearance contract; attorney’s fees of $130,489; and $11,630 in arbitration costs.

Lawyers for the production company filed an application with the Federal Court in London to enforce the award earlier this year.

Lewis said in an interview last April that Norris’ request was unfounded, but did not formally respond to the request to enforce the judgment. The case is pending.

This story was originally published November 2, 2021 1:13 p.m.

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