In Wyoming’s first major COVID-19 related fraud case, former Wyoming Catholic College chief financial officer Paul D. McCown pleaded guilty to all seven counts lodged against him by federal prosecutors.
Standing quietly before U.S. District Judge Scott W. Skavdahl and a handful of spectators in a Casper federal courtroom on Tuesday, McCown, 35, admitted duping the federal COVID-19 business relief program, the Wyoming Business Council that administered the program and a private New York investment company out of millions of dollars by posing as a wealthy entrepreneur with a $750 million fortune nestled in his account with the tiny Wyoming Community Bank in Lander.
Each of the seven wire fraud counts against him carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Judge Skavdahl set a sentencing hearing for June 17 in Casper before releasing McCown on a $10,000 signature bond.
To commit the fraud against the New York-based Ria R Squared private equity firm McCown admitted using phony email accounts, falsifying bank statements and posing as a bank vice president.
A once prominent figure in the Lander business community, he told friends at the tiny Catholic college that he had made a fortune by converting his newly formed gin distillery into hand sanitizer business that was capitalizing on the COVID-19 crisis through major contracts with NFL stadiums and national airports.
McCown, wearing a light blue sports coat, and his attorney Jason Tangeman stood at the lectern for about 50 minutes as Judge Skavdahl read details of the plea agreement, allegations and potential penalties.
The judge informed McCown of the rights he would forfeit by waiving an indictment and by agreeing to the plea agreement.
McCown answered only in the affirmative when addressed by the judge. When Judge Skavdahl asked McCown how he pleaded, as per the plea agreement, McCown answered “guilty” to each of the seven counts.
McCown’s attorney told the judge that McCown’s wife and four young children were planning to move to California before his sentencing and was granted permission by Judge Skavdahl to accompany them on the condition that he return to Wyoming once the move was completed.
Dustin Bleizeffer contributed reporting.