The owner of two California trucking companies is facing wire fraud charges after prosecutors claim he obtained more than $667,000 in funds through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program while awaiting trial in a separate federal case for allegedly ordering welders to illegally repair an oil tanker that resulted in a fatal explosion in 2014.

Carl Bradley Johansson, 62, of Newport Beach, was charged with one count of bank fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on Thursday.

Federal prosecutors claim Johansson applied and received a $436,390 PPP loan in his son’s name in April 2020 to keep his company, Western Distribution LLC of Ontario, California, afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, instead of using the funds for payroll expenses, Johansson laid off most of his employees and spent the majority of the money elsewhere, according to court documents. 

That same month, prosecutors allege he applied and received another PPP loan, this time in his 85-year-old mother’s name, for more than $286,500 for a trucking company in Merced County, California, identified as “Company A,” according to the affidavit.

To create the impression that Western Distribution had spent more of its PPP loan on its payroll than it actually did, prosecutors allege Johansson moved 21 of his Merced County trucking company’s employees onto the Western Distribution payroll, even though those employees never worked for his other trucking company.

The affidavit alleges Johansson made the move just before the company’s 24-week window closed for spending its PPP funds so he could falsely claim on Western Distribution’s PPP loan forgiveness application in January 2021 that he spent at least 60% of its PPP loan on payroll.

Johansson faces up to 70 years in prison.

Forgivable loans through the PPP, administered by the Small Business Administration, started out with $350 billion in the CARES Act signed by former President Donald Trump in late March 2020 and were reupped in April 2020 with an additional $320 billion. The third round of funding, $284 billion in forgivable PPP loans through the SBA, opened up to lenders in January. 

Trial slated for September oil tanker explosion

Johansson is scheduled to go on trial on Sept. 14 in another federal investigation into an alleged scheme to defeat federal transportation laws by ordering the illegal repair of an oil tanker that resulted in a fatal explosion in 2014 that left one man dead and another welder critically injured. 

He is also accused of creating shell companies to avoid paying at least $298,562 in federal income taxes from 2012 to 2017, according to court documents.

Read related articles:

Road Doctor owner accused of paving way for luxury cars with PPP loan
Utah trucking owner admits bribing FedEx manager, defrauding PPP loan program
Trucking company owners among 6 indicted in PPP loan fraud scheme
Trucking company owner indicted in PPP loan fraud, Ponzi scheme

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Clarissa Hawes.