A former Lander businessman and Wyoming Catholic College official recently was sentenced to five years three months imprisonment for seven counts of wire fraud, according to a news release from Wyoming Acting U.S. Attorney Nicholas Vassallo.

“Paul McCown’s fraudulent behavior was extreme and went on for nearly a year,” Vassallo said.

“He violated  the trust of the people of the State of Wyoming and the United States by fraudulently obtaining nearly $850,000 in COVID relief money. His misconduct damaged the community as a whole and harmed businesses that legitimately needed the aid. He then went on to defraud a private investment firm for approximately $15,000,000," he said.

McCown waived his indictment and pleaded guilty to the seven counts on March 29, according to federal court records.

The sentence reflected the gravity of McCown's deceitful conduct, Vassallo added.

McCowan, 35, on July 5 heard the sentence handed down by Chief U.S. District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl for four counts of wire fraud related to pandemic relief programs administered by the Wyoming Business Council and the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Three other counts of wire fraud were related to money fraudulently obtained from the New York-based private financial management firm Ria R Squared, Inc. That money was used in part to repay the Business Council.

On Wednesday, Skavdahl issued an amended judgment in which he ordered McCown to pay $700 in special assessments and pay $15,649,986.09 in restitution.

McCown also attempted to open a gin distillery and fund it by applying for CARES Act funding through the Wyoming Business Council. However, he never sold any gin.

After an audit, he agreed to repay the $841,863 he fraudulently obtained from the state.

Besides the Business Council funding, McCown made connections through his position at the Wyoming Catholic College to Ria R. Squared, Inc. He engaged in an elaborate scheme that included impersonating others and forging documents to fraudulently induce the financial management firm to loan him $15 million, Vassallo said.

In the news release, FBI Denver Special Agent in Charge Michael Schneider said McCown took advantage of money allocated by the Federal government through programs that were created to provide critical support to our communities during the pandemic.

"This case is a reminder that the FBI will continue to aggressively pursue those who defraud the Federal government to enrich themselves," Schneider said.

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