A Mysterious Maine Farm Got a $1.2 Million PPP Loan
Just another curious case of the widespread bilking of the Covid relief fund.
Earlier this year, Common Ground Organic Farm LLC in western Maine received $1.2 million from the government as part of the federal Paycheck Protection Program. The organic farm based in the town of Bridgton claimed to have 91 employees.
The problem is no one has ever heard of this farm. According to a report by the Portland Press Herald, a local insurance firm occupies the address given for Common Ground, not organic potatoes. There is a company that used to be called Common Ground Organic Farm, but they're located in DeLand, Florida, and never applied for a PPP loan.
The mystery in Maine is just another case of scammers taking advantage of the $523 billion Paycheck Protection Program. A report by the House Select Subcommittee identified more than $4 billion in faulty loans paid by the government. Some other bilkers include hate groups (as designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center or the Anti-Defamation League) and even NFL wide receiver Joshua Bellamy, who was arrested for filing a fraudulent loan application of $24 million.
Organic farmers plant suspicion
Organic farmers in Maine were the first to flag the suspicious loan to Common Ground. They questioned the size of the company's staff and the location, which was nowhere near where large-scale agriculture typically takes place.
Elizabeth Moisuk, a spokesperson for the Small Business Association (SBA), told the Herald that the organization was investigating the case, but she had no further details. “Evidence of waste, fraud, and abuse with any of SBA’s loan programs is not tolerated and should be reported,” she said.
We will keep you posted as more details emerge.
Meanwhile, the newspaper was able to track down the owners of the company formally known as Common Ground Organic Farm in Florida. The business's co-owner Pat Joslin told them that she'd never applied for a loan because her company was not eligible. She runs the company with her husband and has no employees or payroll.
Still, last month the couple received a notice from the SBA saying that they needed to start repaying their loan.
“We have never as a farm taken a loan on anything,” Joslin said. “We have been here 12 years, then we get this. We went, ‘Holy crap.’ ”