PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A Vancouver real estate developer was indicted by a Portland grand jury Thursday. He is accused of fraudulently obtaining COVID-relief program funds and laundering a portion of the proceeds.
Sixty-year-old Michael James DeFrees was charged with wire fraud, bank fraud and money laundering.
From April 2020 to April 2022, DeFrees allegedly used a pair of business entities to illegally obtain Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs) and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans under false pretenses. The loans were provided by the Small Business Administration (SBA).
Initially authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the EIDL and PPP programs helped SBA issue low-interest loans to small businesses that were negatively impacted by the pandemic.
In multiple loan applications to a pair of banks in Washington, DeFrees indicated that he was the sole owner of Gateway National Corporation, a Washington-based construction company, and Yacht Harbor, LLC, a real estate development company in Oregon. In the applications, he said he had never been convicted of any criminal offense or placed on parole or probation, despite serving a term of probation following a 2017 conviction in the Western District of Washington for falsifying records in a bankruptcy proceeding.
DeFrees allegedly laundered a portion of the money from the loans he received to a third business entity.
Wire and bank fraud are punishable by up to 20 and 30 years in federal prison, respectively. Money laundering is punishable by up to 10 years in federal prison.