Mississippi business owner to plead guilty of lying, misusing COVID-19 relief funds meant for employees for purchase of home, other personal items instead

Published 7:09 am Saturday, May 14, 2022

A Mississippi man is set to plead guilty Monday to defrauding the government by misusing more than $6 million in COVID-19 relief funds.

Christopher Paul Lick, 46, of Starkville initially pleaded not guilty in federal court after he was indicted in 2021 on 16 charges, including wire fraud and money laundering.

A  jury trial was set to begin Monday, May 16, at 9:30 a.m. at the U.S. Courthouse in Oxford in front of U.S. District Judge Glen Davidson. But on Tuesday, Lick’s attorney filed notice that there will be a change of plea hearing Monday at 10 a.m. in the very same courtroom.

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According to court documents, Lick was the manager and owner of four companies: GTR Holding, Aspen Lake Online, Aspen River Candle Company and Grassroots, a Natural Company. The federal indictment says Lick, between April 2020 and September 2020, devised a scheme to file false Paycheck Protection Program loans to gain money through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security act.

He reportedly lied about the number of employees he had and the average monthly payrolls.

“Rather than use the fund for his business to cover payroll and other permissible expenses, Lick converted most of these funds for his personal use, including purchasing an expensive home, vehicles and other personal items,” the indictment reads. “Lick also used a significant portion of these funds for his own personal financial investments, including buying and selling stocks.”