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Montana restaurant owner sentenced for COVID-19 relief fraud

Crime Watch
Posted at 4:30 PM, Apr 13, 2022

BILLINGS - A Shepherd man who owns the Feedlot Steakhouse in Shepherd was sentenced Wednesday to three years of probation, ordered to pay restitution and forfeited vintage vehicles he admitted to buying with approximately $75,000 in a COVID-19 relief loan from the Small Business Administration (SBA) instead of using the money to help his business.

Michael Eugene Bolte, 70, pleaded guilty in November 2021 to theft of government money, property or records, a misdemeanor, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office.

U.S. District Judge Susan P. Watters presided over the case and ordered Bolte to pay $76,989 in restitution to the SBA. In addition, the government previously seized and Bolte forfeited four vintage automobiles purchased with the funds: a 1916 Studebaker, a 1929 Franklin, a 1939 Ford Deluxe, and a 1941 Ford Super Deluxe.

The government alleged in court documents that on April 1, 2020, Bolte applied to the SBA for a business loan under the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) 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 the EIDL loan would be used solely as working capital for his business. Bolte’s intent at the time of signing for the loan was to buy vintage automobiles 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 had it known Bolte’s intended and actual use of the funds.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael A. Kakuk prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the IRS Criminal Investigation, with assistance from the SBA Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: []