LOS ANGELES—A California man has been charged with fraud, after he illegally obtained approximatly $9 million in COVID-19 relief funds, which he used to gamble with.

The suspect is identified as Los Angeles resident Andrew Marnel, 40, who was arrested on Thursday, July 16. A document released by the United States Department of Justice states that he made his initial court appearance in Los Angeles at the United States District Court, where charges were filed against him that alleged he obtained more than $8 million in PPP loans by submitting applications to insured financial institutions on behalf of different companies. During the court hearing, prosecutors said they now have reason to believe that the amount is closer to $9 million, and could rise more as the investigation proceeds.

The affidavit alleges that in order to evade detection, Marnell often used aliases, submitted fake or altered documents, including forge federal tax filings and employee payroll records. The complaint adds that Marnell transferred millions from his fraudulently obtained loans, and spent a large amount of the funds at the Bellagio Hotel & Casino, and other gambling establishments.

The PPP or Paycheck Protection Program, is a source of financial relief that is provided by the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act) which was passed in April 2020 as a response to assist businesses that have been financially impacted by the pandemic. Businesses must use PPP checks for employee payroll, interest on mortgages, or paying rent and utilities. The illegal activity alleged against Marnell could carry a statutory maximum sentence of 30 years in prison if found guilty.

The case is still under investigation by the FBI, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Bureau of Gambling Control, and others.