Former Olympic speedskater Allison Baver, now an entertainment company owner, pleaded not guilty in a federal court this week to fraudulently obtaining $10 million in the federal government's Paycheck Protection Program, which provided relief to companies affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Baver, 41, of Taylorsville, Utah, was indicted in December on nine federal criminal counts of making false statements on loan applications to get money from the Small Business Administration's Paycheck Protection Program, according to the Department of Justice.
According to the agency, Baver, an Olympic medalist and the owner of Allison Baver Entertainment, took out $10 million in loans through the program, which was funded through the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act passed in March 2020, which she then used to invest in a motion picture production, according to the agency.
The agency alleges that Baver said she had a monthly payroll of $4.6 million and between 100 and 430 employees to qualify for the program, when in fact she did not have any employees or payroll.
According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the program issued forgivable loans to first- and second-time small-business borrowers that experienced serious hardships from the pandemic and its lockdowns.
The loans were intended to pay expenses during the pandemic, including payrolls to prevent layoffs.
Businesses that fulfilled the criteria and kept most of their workers employed during the lockdowns could have the loans forgiven.
Baver was a member of Team USA from 2004 and 2010 and won several medals in speedskating competitions, including a bronze medal at the 2010 Olympic Games in the women's 3,000 meter relay, according to the Team USA website.
According to her company's website, Allison Baver Entertainment was formed to empower ''visionaries, creators, and entrepreneurs to achieve greatness, while pushing beyond pre-conceived limits.''
''We are champions of equality, entrepreneurship, empowerment, and human elevation, proponents of personal performance, and advocates for those who aim high and break the glass ceiling,'' the website said.
According to the New York Post, Baver could face up to 40 years in prison if convicted on all nine counts.
The indictment and prosecution of Baver is part of the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force, established in May 2021 to investigate and prosecute instances of fraud connected with the trillions of dollars in federal pandemic relief programs.
To date, the U.S. government has spent almost $5 trillion in pandemic relief measures.
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