Ruben Mireles, a 48-year-old resident of Clovis, California, pleaded guilty on Monday to stealing $1.4 million in COVID-19 relief money, according to U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert. Mireles owned and operated a farm labor contracting business in Kings County, initially known as Vista Pacific Labor Solutions Inc. (VPLS) and later changed to Calzona Ag Management Inc., doing business as Vista Pacific Farm Management (CAM).
In January 2021, after changing the name to CAM, Mireles caused the company to apply for and receive a $1.4 million COVID-19 Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan from the Small Business Administration (SBA). In April 2021, Mireles caused VPLS to apply for and receive another $1.4 million PPP loan from the SBA based on false information.
During the second loan application, Mireles falsely represented to the SBA that VPLS was a separate company from CAM, when in reality, they were the same company. He also falsely claimed that he had not received any other PPP loans and that he was not facing any pending criminal charges, despite being charged with state fraud offenses.
Based on these misrepresentations, VPLS’s loan application was approved, and the $1.4 million, to which Mireles was not entitled, was deposited into his bank account. The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the SBA Office of Inspector General, with Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Barton prosecuting.
Mireles is scheduled to be sentenced by Jennifer L. Thurston on February 20, 2024. If convicted, he faces a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. This case is part of the California COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Strike Force operation, established by the U.S. Department of Justice to combat large-scale pandemic relief fraud.