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STONECREST, GA (CBS46)—During the pandemic, he submitted federal forms claiming he lost livestock at his commercial farm.

In addition, he requested federal reimbursement for employees who he said were paid sick and family leave wages during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In total, he attempted to obtain $1.5 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds.

The problem, according to federal authorities, it was all untrue. He did not own or operate a commercial farm or have losses associated with any livestock

On May 3, Christopher Hayes, 35, of Stonecrest, pleaded guilty to defrauding the federal government's COVID-19 relief program.

Due to his dishonesty, Hayes will spend the next 2.5 years in federal prison.

After he serves his sentence, he will face an additional three years of supervised release, and the judge ordered him to pay ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $248,739.

“The government has provided significant relief for Americans as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Kurt R. Erskine. “Unfortunately, there are those who take advantage of this to defraud these programs. Our office has placed the highest priority on prosecuting those that do so.”

“IRS-Criminal Investigation is committed to investigating fraud against COVID-19 relief programs,” said IRS-Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge James E. Dorsey. “Our financial expertise is a key asset to the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force. We will continue to use our financial expertise to identify fraud, trace the funds, and bring the criminals to justice.”

“The USDA COVID-19 food assistance programs were meant to keep food on American family’s tables during this unprecedented time,” said Jason Williams, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Agriculture-Office of Inspector General. “This prosecution should send a strong zero-tolerance message to those opportunistic fraudsters who would take advantage of a national emergency to enrich themselves.”

Copyright 2021 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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