RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Dealing with COVID-19 has been tough for businesses and getting funding to help in the recovery process can be daunting.
Recently, a situation has arisen where businesses are offered cash via a solicitation letter that may not be what it seems.
This came to the attention of Consumer Investigator Steve Sbraccia when one of our own staffers received an email saying CBS 17 had been approved for a $6,148 Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan from the government and because of that, was eligible for $265,000 in additional financing from a private funding group.
During the height of the pandemic, with businesses closed and needing a way to keep employees on staff, the government began the Paycheck Protection Program.
The PPP offered those loans from a $954 billion federal fund.
This week, a CBS 17 employee received an email from an entity calling itself Allegiant Funding Group saying in April of 2020 the Cross River Bank approved CBS 17’s $6,148 dollar PPP Loan—a loan our corporate owners never applied for.
The website for Allegiant Funding Group lists a Las Vegas address for the company and includes a section showing “what our happy customers say about us.”
When Sbraccia conducted a reverse image search of the photos for customers identified as “Michael Nash” and “Stephen Arintok,” he found the website used stock photos that have been seen on hundreds of various websites.
When Sbraccia called the phone number listed for Allegiant Funding Group in the letter we received, he was connected to a firm called U.S. Business Funding based not in Las Vegas, but in Santa Ana, California where a man named Jack Phillips took the call.
Sbraccia asked what U.S. Business Funding does.
“We do working capital and lines of credit as well as equipment financing for your business,” said Phillips.
In researching the company, Sbraccia found the Better Business Bureau has logged 33 complaints against U.S. Business Funding.
Many of the complaints were about constant spam and multiple unsolicited emails sent several times a day from the company to businesses around the country.
“They send out different marketing emails throughout the day,” Phillips admitted.
One BBB complaint says a person received an email about an “approved loan” based on an application “he never filed.”
That sounded similar to the email CBS 17 received from Allegiant Funding Group which directed us to U.S. Business Funding.
Sbraccia wanted to know why CBS 17 would be associated with a PPP loan no one at the company applied for?
“I don’t have that answer for you sir,” said Phillips.
We wanted to know more about Allegiant Funding Group and sent a copy of the email we received to the North Carolina attorney general’s office.
They told CBS 17 they have no record of complaints against the firm, but issued a warning saying what Allegiant Funding Group is doing needs to be reported to the inspector general’s hotline for the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Sbraccia also reached out to the bank mentioned in that email which supposedly approved CBS 17’s PPP loan. It has not yet replied.
During our phone call with Phillips, we asked for the name of a marketing official with U.S. Business Funding to get answers about how Allegiant Funding Group is connected with their firm and why their website uses stock photos to represent its customers.
Phillips gave Sbraccia a name and email address, but no one replied to the request.
— to www.cbs17.com