BOSTON – A Marblehead man and woman were arrested today in connection with their alleged submission of fraudulent applications for Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds for several purported non-profit religious organizations and related businesses they controlled.
Brian Andrew Bushell, 47, and Tracey M.A. Stockton, 64, were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and unlawful monetary transactions. Bushell and Stockton will appear in federal court in Boston today at 1:15 p.m.
According to the charging documents, Bushell – a purported Orthodox Christian monk who presented himself as “Father” and “Rev. Fr.” Bushell or Andrew – controlled several Marblehead-based organizations, including an Orthodox Christian charitable foundation (St. Paul’s Foundation); a “monastic house” (Shrine of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, Patron of Sailors, Brewers & Repentant Thieves); a purported residence for clergy (Annunciation House); a monastic brewery (Marblehead Brewing Co.); and a craft saltern (Marblehead Salt Co.). Stockton, a Massachusetts attorney, served as general counsel and authorized representative of these organizations. Bushell and Stockton resided together at a Marblehead residence that they called Annunciation House.
Shortly after CARES Act funds became available in April 2020, Bushell, with Stockton’s assistance, allegedly began submitting numerous applications to the Small Business Administration (SBA) to receive Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs) for the organizations that he controlled. It is alleged that in the applications, Bushell vastly overstated the organizations’ 2019 operational expenses for the purpose of obtaining larger loan amounts. In support of the applications to the SBA, Bushell and Stockton allegedly submitted false documents, such as income statements, that fabricated the organizations’ revenues and expenses. As a result of their alleged misrepresentations on these applications and in subsequent loan increase requests, Bushell and Stockton obtained $3.5 million in EIDL funds for St. Paul’s, St. Nicholas, Annunciation House and Marblehead Salt.
According to the charging documents, Bushell and Stockton also submitted numerous applications for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds for Bushell’s organizations. In supporting documentation for the applications as well as in correspondence with PPP lenders, Bushell and Stockton allegedly inflated the number of employees and the amount of payroll expenses that each borrower organization had. For instance, with respect to several applications, it is alleged that Bushell and Stockton listed, as employees, at least eight individuals who were never employed by any of Bushell’s organizations. As a result of their misrepresentations on these applications and related submissions, Bushell and Stockton obtained an additional $146,608 in PPP funds.
“We allege that these two individuals engaged in brazen, criminal behavior that took advantage of our government’s efforts to rescue organizations—both for-profit and non-profit— by assisting with specific, legitimate expenses during the global pandemic,” said United States Attorney Rachael S. Rollins. “Pandemic relief funds are not “free money” – they are a lifeline designed to help business owners and non-profit leaders experiencing real economic hardship. Our government should not and will not foot the bill for fancy designer handbags and lavish lifestyles. Hard-working people deserve these funds.”
“Today, we arrested a purported Orthodox Christian monk and his attorney for misdirecting millions of dollars in federal emergency assistance from businesses struggling to survive, to line their own pockets for their own personal enrichment. We believe they clearly knew that what they were doing was wrong, but they did it anyway, spending tens of thousands of dollars on exclusive memberships, expensive wine, property, renovations, and even a $40,000 wristwatch,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division. “Their alleged greed is an affront to every hard-working taxpayer, and during these challenging times where scammers are doing everything they can to defraud people of their hard-earned money, the FBI is doing everything we can to make sure they don’t succeed.”
“The VA Office of Inspector General is a proud partner of the PRAC Fraud Task Force,” said Special Agent in Charge Christopher Algieri of the VA Office of Inspector General’s Northeast Field Office. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to investigate allegations of fraud in government programs intended to provide relief to those impacted by the pandemic.”
The charging documents allege that, upon receiving EIDL and PPP funds, Bushell and Stockton used those funds on expenses that would not have been permitted under either program, even had the funds been obtained lawfully. Specifically, Bushell and Stockton allegedly spent over $1 million of the CARES Act proceeds for extensive renovations to two Marblehead properties they planned to develop into a monastic complex that featured a chapel, brewery, beer garden, approximately $90,000 in audio video system equipment and nearly $40,000 in antique furniture. They also purchased a new residential property and various fixtures, furnishings, and equipment for their various properties. Bushell, who claimed to have taken a vow of poverty, also allegedly used fraudulently obtained CARES Act funds to purchase over $40,000 in Swiss watches, a nearly $7,000 Goyard designer handbag for Stockton, $2,400 on items from Hermès and other luxury goods.
The charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross gain or loss from the scheme, whichever is greater. The charge of conspiracy to commit unlawful monetary transactions provides for a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000, or twice the value of the criminally derived property. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and statutes which govern the determination of a sentence in a criminal case.
U.S. Attorney Rollins, FBI SAC Bonavolonta and VA-OIG SAC Algieri made the announcement today. Valuable assistance was provided by the Marblehead Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney David M. Holcomb of Rollins’ Securities, Financial & Cyber Fraud Unit and Assistant U.S. Attorney Carol Head, Chief of Rollins’ Asset Recovery Unit, are prosecuting the case.
This case was investigated in connection with the <a href=”https://www.pandemicoversight.gov/”>Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC) Fraud Task Force</a>, which was established to promote transparency and coordinate oversight of the federal government’s COVID-19 pandemic response. The PRAC brings together federal agents from 14 agency Inspector Generals to detect fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement in the more than $5 trillion in authorized COVID-19 funds.