The Federal Trade Commission has charged a Rhode Island-based company and its owner with falsely claiming to be an approved lender for a federal coronavirus relief lending program and asked a federal court to immediately halt their misrepresentations.
The FTC’s complaint alleges that Ponte Investments, LLC, also doing business as SBA Loan Program and SBA Loan Program.com, and its owner John C. Ponte, have been falsely claiming an affiliation with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and marketing themselves to small businesses as an approved lender under SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The PPP is a program authorized as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). According to the FTC, the defendants are neither affiliated with the SBA in any way, nor are they an SBA-authorized lender.
“In this time of incredible challenge for all Americans, it is disturbing to see these defendants preying on desperate businesses looking for ways to keep their employees financially secure,” said FTC Chairman Joe Simons. “The FTC is on guard, and we will act to protect consumers from scammers looking to take advantage of this crisis.”
According to the FTC’s complaint, the defendants have called small businesses directly, claiming to be representing the SBA and soliciting loan applications on behalf of the businesses’ banks. They also have made statements on their website like “WE ARE A DIRECT LENDER FOR THE PPP PROGRAM!” and “[w]e are currently offering stimulus relief spending under the Economic Security Act (Cares Act).”