BILLINGS - A Shepherd man who owns a restaurant was arraigned Thursday in federal court on charges related to a scheme to defraud the Small Business Administration of approximately $75,000 in a COVID-19 relief loan which he allegedly used for personal benefit, including buying classic cars.
The U.S. Attorney's Office said in a press release that Michael Eugene Bolte, 70 of Shepherd and the owner of the Feedlot Steakhouse, pleaded not guilty to an indictment charging him with wire fraud and with engaging in transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity.
If convicted of the most serious crime, Bolte faces a maximum 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and three years of supervised release. Bolte was released pending further proceedings.
The indictment states that in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the SBA began the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program to provide economic relief to small businesses and nonprofit organizations that experienced a temporary loss of revenue. Loan proceeds were to be used solely as “working capital” for business operating expenses.
The indictment alleged that from April 1, 2020, to about March 4, 2021, Bolte devised a scheme to defraud the SBA by falsely certifying that loan proceeds were to be used as working capital for the business when in fact approximately $75,000 of loan proceeds were used for his own benefit.
The indictment includes a criminal forfeiture in which, if convicted, Bolte would forfeit to the United States any real and personal property derived from the offense. Property to be forfeited includes four classic cars - a 1916 Studebaker, a 1929 Franklin, a 1939 Ford Deluxe and a 1941 Ford Super Deluxe.