Shepherd restaurant owner admits theft of COVID-19 relief funds

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BILLINGS – A shepherd who owns the Feedlot Steakhouse in Shepherd admitted on Tuesday that he received about $ 75,000 as a COVID-19 relief loan from the Small Business Administration for his business, but used the money to buy old cars.

U.S. Attorney Leif M. Johnson said in a press release that Michael Eugene Bolte, 70, pleaded guilty to theft of money, property or government records, a misdemeanor. Bolte faces a maximum of one year in prison, a fine of $ 100,000 and one year of supervised release.

A plea deal reached in the case calls on prosecutors to recommend that an indictment be dismissed and that Bolte be responsible for the full restitution of $ 74,800. Bolte also accepts criminal confiscation of vintage cars, including a 1916 Studebaker, 1929 Franklin, 1939 Ford Deluxe, and 1941 Ford Super Deluxe.

US District Judge Susan P. Watters has set the sentence for April 13, 2022. Bolte has been released pending further trial.

Prosecutors alleged in court documents that on April 1, 2020, Bolte applied to the SBA for a business loan under the Economic Disaster Lending Program, authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. On May 24, 2020, Bolte signed a loan agreement for $ 74,800 and expressly acknowledged that the EIDL loan would be used only as working capital for his business.

Bolte’s intention at the time of signing the loan was to purchase vintage cars as an investment and not as working capital for his business. Eleven days after receiving the loan, Bolte wrote a check for $ 75,000 for the purchase of four vintage vehicles. The SBA would not have approved or funded Bolte’s loan if it had known Bolte’s intended and actual use of the funds.

“Federal programs, like the one at issue here, don’t work when people cheat. If someone like Bolte asks for federal program funds to help businesses survive the pandemic, but instead buys classic cars, it robs other deserving applicants of the opportunity to use the funds. These government loan programs rely on the integrity of the applicants to use the money as intended. When people try to cheat, they are fully investigated and prosecuted, ”US Attorney Johnson said in the press release.


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