Trucking company owners plead guilty to PPP loan fraud

Trucking news and briefs for Monday, June 27, 2022:

Trucking company owners plead guilty to PPP loan fraud

Semsi Salja and Anes Suhonjic, the owners of 47-truck, Grand Rapids, Michigan-based trucking company DMR Transportation, pleaded guilty in federal court earlier this month to conspiring to commit bank fraud in connection with a $290,855 loan under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

In a related civil case, DMR, Salja and Suhonjic agreed to pay a total of $1 million, including a substantial civil monetary penalty under the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act (FIRREA).

In 2020, Congress enacted the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the CARES Act) to provide emergency federal assistance for the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Through the PPP, the CARES Act authorized forgivable loans to small businesses for job retention and certain other expenses.

In its second-draw PPP loan application, the Department of Justice said DMR knowingly and falsely certified that it realized the required 25% reduction in gross receipts between the second financial quarter of 2019 and the second financial quarter of 2020. DMR also allegedly submitted falsified quarterly balance sheets and other false financial records that were signed by Salja and Suhonjic alongside the application. 

In September 2021, DMR sought forgiveness of its second-draw PPP loan by falsely certifying that its second-draw PPP loan proceeds were used to pay eligible business expenses when, in fact, DMR held that money in reserve, DOJ added.

“The PPP involved a limited pool of funds to help small businesses wracked by the disruption of a global pandemic,” United States Attorney Mark Totten said. “By fraudulently obtaining a second PPP loan, DMR took, for itself, hundreds of thousands of dollars that could have been used to help deserving companies. My office will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute these cases.”

Salja and Suhonjic face a maximum of five years in prison.

Navistar issues recall over Sheppard steering gears

Navistar is recalling more than 33,000 vehicles affected by the steering gear recall from Bendix subsidiary R.H. Sheppard, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration documents.

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Navistar’s recall affects approximately 33,655 model year 2022-2023 International HX, HV, LoneStar, LT, MV, RH, IC TC Commercial Bus, and 2022 International WorkStar vehicles.  The steering gears may have been assembled incorrectly, which can cause the gear to fracture.

Dealers will inspect the steering gear serial numbers, and replace the steering gears as necessary, free of charge.  Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed Aug. 18.  Owners can contact Navistar customer service at 1-800-448-7825 with recall number 22513. NHTSA’s recall number is 22V-428.

Kentucky/Indiana bridge tolls jumping 8%

New toll rates for three bridges connecting Louisville and southern Indiana will begin Friday, July 1. Rates for five-axle and larger trucks will increase more than 8%.

RiverLink, which manages the tolls, says drivers with prepaid accounts in good standing and transponders pay the lowest toll rates and save more than $2 per crossing. The rates for trucks with prepaid accounts and transponders will increased from $11.04 to $11.98, while the rates for trucks paying by mail/plate will increase from $13.26 to $14.38.

Toll revenue is used to meet the financial obligations of the Ohio River Bridges Project and to pay for operations and maintenance of the bridges and roadways in the project area.

Tolling is in place on the I-65 Abraham Lincoln Bridge, I-65 Kennedy Bridge and SR 265/KY 841 Lewis and Clark Bridge connecting Prospect, Kentucky, and Utica, Indiana.

Toll rates increase annually by 2.5% unless the rate of inflation (as measured by the Consumer Price Index) is higher. The April 2022 CPI used to calculate the increase was 8.3%.

Additionally, the new rates include an adjustment of 0.1% that should have been reflected in the July 2021 rate increase. RiverLink says the adjustment was necessary because last year’s rate increase was calculated using the 2.5% baseline rather than the March 2021 CPI of 2.6 percent.

The tolling of the bridges, a bi-state effort between Indiana and Kentucky, started Dec. 30, 2016.

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