Trucking company owner gets 17 years in prison for PPP loan and Ponzi scheme
September 17, 2021
A reality television star and owner of Flame Trucking will serve nearly 20 years in prison for charges related to Paycheck Protection Program loan fraud and a seven-figure Ponzi scheme.
On Wednesday, Sept. 15, a federal court in Georgia sentenced Maurice Fayne to 17 years in prison, and he was ordered to pay nearly $5 million in restitution for his role in a PPP loan fraud and Ponzi scheme. In May, Fayne pleaded guilty to six of 18 charges, including four counts related to wire fraud, one count of bank fraud and one count of false statements to a financial institution. Fayne immediately filed a notice to appeal.
Last May, the U.S. government filed a criminal complaint against Fayne, also known as Arkansas Mo in the reality show “Love & Hip-Hop: Atlanta.” He is accused of fraudulently using funds he acquired from the Paycheck Protection Program for a company he owns called Flame Trucking. Further investigation found a larger scheme that predated the PPP loan fraud.
PPP loan scheme
According to the original affidavit filed in May 2020, Fayne applied for a PPP loan of nearly $4 million with United Community Bank in April 2020. Filed under the name of his company Flame Trucking, Fayne told the bank the company had 107 employees. He also stated the average monthly payroll was nearly $1.5 million.
Rather than use the PPP loan funds for legitimate purposes, Fayne used the money for the following:
- $40,000 for past-due child support.
- $50,000 for restitution owed in a previous fraud case.
- $65,000 in cash withdrawals.
- $85,000 for custom-made jewelry.
- $136,000 to lease a Rolls-Royce.
- $230,000 to associates who helped him run a Ponzi scheme.
- $907,000 to start a new business in Arkansas.
Fayne told federal agents that he used the PPP funds for payroll and other business expenses. He denied using the money for personal debts and expenses. However, when agents seized the jewelry, Fayne admitted to buying the jewelry with PPP loan funds. Court documents claim Fayne told agents he had the right to use the funds for “other business purposes” and for “working capital.” According to the complaint, he said he believes “the jewelry would increase in value because he would be wearing it, which would make it more valuable.”
During the search, agents also found a bag containing $70,000. Fayne claimed the cash was his “personal money,” according to court documents. Additionally, agents discovered more than $9,000 in cash in the pockets of the clothes Fayne was wearing at the time.
Not in the original affidavit, but later included in the second superseding indictment filed in November, investigators allege a Ponzi scheme committed by Fayne as far back as March 2013 through May 2020.
According to court documents, Fayne obtained money from investors in his trucking company by lying to them about its operations. Described as a “small, unprofitable trucking company” in the indictment, Fayne frequently changed the name and address of the company to avoid the IRS and other creditors. He also did this to circumvent the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and other agencies regulating the trucking industry.
Fayne and three other defendants – Daniel Eric Jay, Michael Sargent and Mark Sargent – recruited more than 20 people to invest in the trucking company. The men went after their own friends and family. The Sargent brothers also targeted women on online dating sites.
Investors were told by Fayne that the trucking company would generate large profits, despite Fayne knowing that not to be true. He provided the investors with fraudulent documents to support those claims. Part of the scheme included providing false documents to FMCSA, the U.S. Department of Transportation and Arkansas Secretary of State, knowing that investors could view their websites to validate information about the trucking company.
In classic Ponzi scheme style, Fayne attempted to put investors at ease by paying “make-believe” profits to a few of the investors using their own money. However, most investors received nothing. Instead, Fayne pocketed most of the money, including spending more than $5 million at a casino.
Questions surrounding Flame Trucking’s existence
Just days after Fayne was indicted, Land Line discovered that Flame Trucking did not appear to exist.
According to court documents, Flame Trucking’s principal office is in Dacula, Ga. The registered address is the same as Fayne’s residence.
However, a search for “Flame Trucking” on FMCSA’s Safety and Fitness Electronic Records system shows three results: one in North Little Rock, Ark.; one in Wylie, Texas; and another in Swainsboro, Ga. None match the address identified in court documents, nor do they include any reference to Fayne.
According to the Georgia Secretary of State’s website, Flame Trucking was formed on April 4, 2019, with the residential address listed as the principal office address. However, a look at the filing history reveals a different address.
According to the original certificate of incorporation, Flame Trucking was established under an address in Lawrenceville, Ga. Quick Transport Solutions has a Flame Trucking listed under that address with DOT number 3304501. However, that DOT number links to an inactive Flame Trucking in Wylie, Texas. According to the website, Flame Trucking has been in business since June 2019, with its MCS-150 date listed as Aug. 8, 2019.
When Land Line called the number listed, the man who answered the phone would not identify himself but claimed that Flame Trucking has been operating since April 2019 and is still in operation.
The individual said that Flame Trucking is leased to some of the larger carriers, including J.B. Hunt and Schneider, and that Flame Trucking owns 81 trucks that run flatbed, dry van and reefer interstate. The individual declined to answer questions about the number of employees, DOT number and other specifics about the operation.
A representative from the Georgia Motor Trucking Association could not confirm the existence of Flame Trucking owned by Fayne.
“The particular Flame Trucking you are seeking information on is not a member of GMTA, and as best we can tell does not actually operate,” GMTA CEO Ed Crowell told Land Line in an email. “It appears to be a fiction.” LL