A Washington, D.C. pastor could be facing a maximum sentence of 20 years behind bars after—as alleged by federal investigators—fraudulently obtaining Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds and using them to make personal purchases.
The Department of Justice announced earlier this month that 45-year-old Rudolph Brooks Jr. of Maryland was facing a federal charge of wire fraud. Warrants were also obtained authorizing the seizure of more than $2.2 million spread across multiple bank accounts, in addition to a 2018 Tesla Model 3. The complaint was filed in late March and unsealed earlier this month after Brooks was arrested.
Brooks—who’s elsewhere described as a pastor at Kingdom Tabernacle of Restoration in D.C.—is also the owner of Cars Direct. The company was first incorporated with the Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation in October of 2010, though it was later forfeited in 2012. In May of last year, however, Cars Direct was revived.
That same month, according to the affidavit, Brooks allegedly applied for a PPP loan on behalf of Cars Direct in the amount of $1,556,589. In doing so, Brooks allegedly provided fraudulent tax forms, while the Maryland Department of Labor has no record of the company paying wages or of Brooks getting wages himself. And in an April EIDL loan application on behalf of the same company, Brooks allegedly submitted information and documents that later contradicted what was claimed in the PPP loan application.
The Cars Direct loan was approved on May 9 of last year, at which point the $1.5 million was deposited into a bank account listing Brooks as the sole signer. After the deposit, Brooks is accused of making numerous transfers of the PPP money into personal bank accounts. Federal investigators said Brooks then used PPP money for multiple “personal expenditures” including credit card bills, restaurant purchases, retail shopping, groceries, mortgage payments, and automotive auctioneers.
Later, in May 2020, Brooks is alleged to have used PPP funds from the Cars Direct account and a personal account to buy 39 used cars. Brooks allegedly purchased a 2017 Mercedes Benz S Class, two 2017 Infinity Q50s, a 2015 Cadillac Escalade, a 2005 Bentley Continental, a 2018 Tesla Model 3, a 2014 GMC Yukon XL, and other older luxury cars. Per PPP loan terms, such buys are not considered an appropriate use of provided money.
The seizure of up to $2,296,136.86 from 11 different accounts and the Tesla, according to the DOJ press release, was put into motion due to the allegation that both the funds and the vehicle “constitute or are derived from the proceeds traceable to false statements made on bank loan applications.”
A recent piece from the Daily Beast’s Blake Montgomery reported that Brooks had also allegedly submitted PPP loan applications for Kingdom Tabernacle ($1.8 million) and Madaro Celtic Bank ($200,000).
As mentioned up top, Brooks faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison on the wire fraud charge, followed by an additional three-year period of supervised released. Sentences of this nature, however, are usually less than the maximum.