BOISE, Idaho — A former congressional candidate has pleaded guilty to using COVID-19 relief funds for personal expenses, and for falsifying records to conceal thousands of dollars of in-kind donations by employees in a report to the Federal Elections Commission (FEC).
New court documents reveal that Nicholas Jones, owner of ‘Good Burger’ and other small businesses, received $753,600 in COVID-19 relief funds through the Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loans in 2020. The Department of Justice reports that despite saying the funds would be used for business-related expenses, Jones used a significant portion of the funds on personal expenses, “including car payments, life insurance policies and political advertisements.”
That same year, Jones ran as a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives. The DOJ says Jones told employees of Good Burger they could continue to be paid their normal wages if they worked on his congressional campaign. Employees reported to work on behalf of the campaign and were paid thousands in wages through the business, including with funds Jones received as part of his PPP loan.
After a primary election loss, the DOJ says a campaign finance report was filed with the FEC, omitting any in-kind donations from any entity or individual other than Jones, including the thousands of dollars of in-kind contributions to his campaign in the form of employee time and work.
Jones has pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court of Idaho to wire fraud and falsification of records. He will be sentenced at a later date, facing a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison.
The FBI is investigating the case.