Washington, DC pastor accused of fraud, buying Tesla in PPP loan scheme

Federal prosecutors say they obtained a warrant to seize $2.2 million and a 2018 Tesla Model 3 from Rudolph Brooks Jr

Federal prosecutors are looking to seize millions of dollars and a luxury car from a Washington, D.C. pastor after he applied and received funding last year from a pandemic-era small business support program.

Rudolph Brooks Jr, the pastor of Kingdom Tabernacle of Restoration, was accused of submitting fraudulent information through the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) with a business registered in Maryland under his name. The program is a loan service designed by the federal government to encourage revenue-losing businesses to keep their workers on payroll amid business closures during the coronavirus pandemic.

Warrants were obtained to seize $2.2 million from Brooks’ bank accounts and a 2018 Tesla Model 3, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office District of Maryland. Brooks, 45, was arrested on April 2.

A Tesla vehicle is seen at a dealership on January 03, 2019 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The office alleges that Brooks applied for a PPP loan on behalf of a car purchasing and selling company under his ownership, Cars Direct. The government requires that PPP funds be used to pay employees, mortgage interest, rent and utilities, but prosecutors claim Brooks enriched himself. He is also accused of attempting to obtain additional funding from the program on at least two other occasions.

TheGrio reached out to Brooks and Kingdom Tabernacle for comment. The publication did not receive a response upon the time this article was published.

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Prosecutors claim Brooks applied to borrow nearly $1.6 million in May of 2020, a loan that was approved and distributed to a bank account in his name. The application included fraudulent tax forms reporting hundreds of thousands of dollars in business expenses, the release said.

In an affidavit supporting the complaint, the Internal Revenue Service and Maryland Department of Labor, however, claim that Cars Direct had no employees on file nor paid any wages.

After the funds were received, Brooks transferred some of the money into a bank account he set up in the name of Payroll by BJM. That account also was not associated with any payroll or payroll-related expenses, prosecutors say. It is believed that this account was opened because it “creates the appearance that the account is associated with a payroll company,” according to the press release.

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Money was also transferred to personal bank accounts, according to the complaint. Brooks allegedly made payments on his credit card bills, at restaurants, grocery stores and auto auctioneers. Money was used to buy dozens of used cars, including the Tesla, a Mercedes Benz and Cadillac Escalade among others, prosecutors said.

As a result of this criminal investigation, warrants have been issued for the seizure of Brooks’ accounts as well as the Tesla. Should Brooks be convicted, he could face a maximum of 20 years in federal prison for wire fraud.

PPP loans were made available to small business owners as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act as a result of business shutdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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