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Reality TV Star Charged With COVID Relief Fraud

Maurice Fayne allegedly used $2 million in SBA loans for Rolls-Royce, Rolex and other luxuries

Maurice "Mo" Fayne surprises Karlie Redd with an engagment ring at "Ferrari Karlie" Single Release Party at Buckhead Loft on July 18, 2018

Paras Griffin / Getty Images

En español | Here's a plot twist the writers didn't script: The U.S. Justice Department has announced criminal charges against a reality TV star from Georgia for alleged bank fraud.

Maurice Fayne, 37, a frequent guest on the VH1 show Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta, was arrested and made his first appearance in federal court in Atlanta this week.

Authorities said he falsified a Small Business Administration loan application in April, obtained $2 million and frittered away much of the cash on a Rolls-Royce, a diamond-studded Rolex watch, a diamond bracelet and a diamond ring. He also allegedly used some of the loan money to pay child support, which is not allowed under the SBA's

Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), set up for relief for businesses during the coronavirus outbreak and economic meltdown.

Fayne, of Dacula, Georgia, was charged May 13. In a criminal complaint, prosecutors allege that Fayne fraudulently collected a $2 million loan from the PPP, which is part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The legislation allocated $649 billion in potentially forgivable SBA loans. Court documents show that federal authorities moved swiftly, charging Fayne within a month of his April 15 loan application.

Fayne “allegedly took advantage of the emergency lending provisions of the PPP that were intended to assist employees and small businesses battered by the coronavirus,” said Byung Pak, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia.

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Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski, who heads the Justice Department's Criminal Division, said Fayne “allegedly stole money meant to assist hard-hit employees and businesses during these difficult times, and instead greedily used the money to bankroll his lavish purchases of jewelry and other personal items."

Fayne is the former partner of hip-hop singer and actress Karlie Lewis, 46, who is known as Karlie Redd and is a cast member of Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta.

Last year, Fayne appeared nine times on the reality TV series, Georgia Public Broadcasting reported. Known as “Arkansas Mo” on the show, Fayne was rumored to have married Lewis. They reportedly later split.

Fayne owns a trucking company in Arkansas and Georgia, Flame Trucking, and he told federal agents he used PPP loan proceeds only for payroll and other qualifying expenses, court documents show. He denied paying personal debts and expenses using loan money. PPP loans may be used only for payroll, mortgage interest, rent and utilities. Loan interest and principal may be forgiven if businesses spend loan money on those expenses within eight weeks and use 75 percent of the funds for payroll.

Phone calls to Fayne and his Atlanta attorney, Tanya Miller, were not returned.

How did three truck drivers turn into 107 employees?

The U.S. Department of Transportation identification numbers for Flame Trucking LLC, based in Little Rock, Arkansas, and Flame Trucking Inc., of Lawrenceville, Georgia, list no more than three trucks and three drivers.

Yet, in a sworn affidavit underpinning the criminal complaint, FBI Special Agent Paul Fike alleges that Fayne submitted the PPP loan application April 15 to the United Community Bank in Blairsville, Georgia, certifying his company employed 107 people with an average monthly payroll of $1.49 million.

Fayne attested that loan proceeds would be used to retain workers, maintain payroll or make mortgage interest payments, and submitted 2019 Arvest Bank statements to buttress his financial claims. The bank statements were fabricated, the complaint alleges.

After receiving the PPP loan, around April 23, Fayne began transferring some of the proceeds, including $80,000 in payments for outstanding personal loans and $350,000 to an Arkansas woman described in the affidavit as “C.W,” who told a Wells Fargo Bank investigator that Fayne is her brother. C.W. told the investigator that she transferred $84,000 to a jewelry story in Duluth, Georgia, for “investment” and paid a woman in Arkansas $40,000 for “child support completion,” at Fayne's request.

The complaint notes that “loan payments, jewelry purchases and child support payments are not authorized uses of PPP loan proceeds."

A defendant with expensive tastes

In a judge's order unsealing the criminal complaint, C.W. is identified as Cawanza Wilkins, 35, who admitted that Fayne is not her biological brother but what she called her "godbrother". Wilkins, who has not been charged, was once listed as Flame Trucking's CEO and CFO and also owns C.R. Wilkins Trucking, established April 22. She did not return calls for comment.

The luxury goods that Fayne allegedly bought during his spending binge are now in the hands of federal authorities. They include a $52,000 diamond-studded Rolex Presidential watch, a $24,000 diamond bracelet and a $3,750 diamond ring. Agents also seized around $503,000 of the PPP loan proceeds from three bank accounts.

His body “made the jewelry more valuable"

On May 11 federal investigators searched Fayne's residence and company office and seized the jewelry. Fayne allegedly told agents he believed that the jewelry would increase in value “because he would be wearing it, which would make it more valuable."

Agents also found and seized a bag stuffed with $70,000 in cash that Fayne called “personal money.” Further, agents seized $9,400 in cash from his pockets and discovered a 2019 Rolls-Royce Wraith in his garage. The high-end auto, which lists for sale at $381,975, still had a temporary dealer tag on it, according to the complaint. When agents asked Fayne whether he used PPP loan money to buy or lease the vehicle, he allegedly responded, “Kinda, sorta, not really.”

AARP’s Fraud Watch Network can help you spot and avoid scams. Sign up for free Watchdog Alerts, review our scam-tracking map, or call our toll-free fraud helpline at 877-908-3360 if you or a loved one suspect you’ve been a victim.