Laurel man facing felony charges in several counties

By 
Marlo Pronovost
Thursday, September 24, 2020

A Laurel man who has denied multiple felony deceptive practices charges in Stillwater County has now been indicted federally for allegedly lying on a Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP) loan.

Matthew Welch, 37, appeared in federal court last Thursday in Billings on an indictment alleging that he tried to illegally obtain $35,000 from the PPP program.

U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme said in a press release that this is the first PPP fraud case filed in Montana.

PPP is a federal loan program created through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to help businesses struggling with the financial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Welch pleaded not guilty to two counts of wire fraud and was released pending the outcome of the case.

Welch attempted to “unjustly enrich himself” by submitting an application on April 23 to obtain a PPP loan under false and misleading pretenses by making false statements about his criminal history, according to the press release. It is also alleged he intended to use the loan proceeds to pay for restitution and other costs related to pending criminal cases against him.

Additionally, Welch, in the name of Welch Sole Proprietorship, sought $35,000 in PPP funds to support payroll, lease and mortgage-interest costs and utility costs and that he falsely certified he was not subject to criminal charges, according to the release.

The U.S. Small Business Administration and the U.S. Secret Service investigated the case.

Stillwater Case

Welch is charged locally with three felony counts of deceptive practices for financial gain for allegedly using his construction company to defraud locals out of approximately $30,000. Stillwater County Attorney Nancy Rohde said at prior court hearings that Welch faces 10 felony charges in Yellowstone County for similar crimes.

Welch posted $15,000 in the case and was released pending the resolution of the case.

According to court documents, a Molt resident contacted Stillwater County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Skylar Steele in September 2019 to report he had paid a contractor for work that had not been done.

The resident told the deputy that he and his daughter had both hired Welch in August 2019 to do some repair work. Shortly thereafter, a hailstorm inflicted substantial damage on one of the homes and Welch was asked to take on that job as well, which he did, according to court documents.

The residents paid Welch $12,943 for what was quoted to be $18,943, according to court documents.

Deputy Steele tried to contact Welch, but Welch did not return the deputy’s call. On Oct. 1, 2019, Deputy Steele learned that both the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office and the Billings Police Department were investigating Welch for deceptive practices in that county and that one arrest warrant had been issued and a second warrant was being sought.

At that point, Deputy Steele began compiling evidence for the Stillwater County case, extracting text messages between Welch and one local victim.

On Oct. 7, 2019, another Molt resident reported giving Welch more than $7,000 for hail damage to her home. Taken into evidence were several text messages between the resident and Welch regarding the agreement for repair work. In all, the resident paid Welch $11,667 for an estimated $20,816 that was supposed to have been done, according to court documents.

In all, Welch took a total of $33,446.68 from the three residents for work that was never completed or in some cases, started.

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