Irmo ex-lawyer sentenced to 18 months for more than $1.5M in COVID-19 relief fraud | Columbia Business

COLUMBIA — A former lawyer from Irmo was sentenced to 18 months in prison after he was convicted of defrauding two federal COVID-19 relief funds for at least $1.5 million.

Ray Lord was sentenced March 14 in U.S. District Court in Columbia for submitting fraudulent information about at least three Midlands businesses he operated plus two parcels of farmland, claiming hugely outsized relief checks.

All the money has been refunded to the government, U.S. District Judge Mary Geiger Lewis noted. In addition to the prison time, she fined Lord $100,000.

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Lewis rejected arguments from Lord’s attorneys that probation would be sufficient punishment, citing the large amount of money involved and the need to show that defrauding the COVID-19 relief program comes with consequences.

“It will be a sign that you cannot do this,” Lewis said.

Lord, a former sheriff’s deputy in Richland County who agreed to plead guilty, apologized for his actions.

“I hurt innocent people who trusted me,” Lord said in court. “I have no excuse for my conduct.”

Lewis did sentence Lord to less time than what federal guidelines for the single count of wire fraud call for, which would have been 51 to 63 months in prison.

She noted Lord has been upfront since being confronted by federal Secret Service agents about the fraud and that the money was repaid. In addition to protecting government VIPs, the Secret Service investigates bank and wire fraud.

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According to the federal indictment, Lord illegally received the money from two federal loan programs under the CARES Act, which sought to cushion businesses from the worst effects of COVID-19 lockdowns and economic downturn.

Lord in 2020 and 2021 submitted fraudulent loan claims on behalf of his law firm, a business he owned called Palmetto Safety Supply and

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