A Laurel contractor who pleaded guilty to fraudulently applying for a federally backed paycheck protection loan was sentenced Tuesday to time served with five years probation.
Matthew Jason Welch, 38, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Dana L. Christensen after a sentencing hearing in which defense attorney and federal prosecutor shared the recommendation that the sentence jail was an inappropriate sentence. The maximum sentence for the case – charged with wire fraud – is 20 years and a $250,000 fine.
Welch had applied for the federal Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP) loan through a local bank, but falsely claimed in the application that he had not faced criminal charges for crime. In fact, Welch had been charged with multiple felonies, one of which was for deceptive marketing practices in Montana’s 22nd Judicial District.
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Welch needed the loan to help pay the costs and fines of those cases, according to court documents. The loan was eventually turned down by the banks involved, but not before triggering a federal investigation.
“Mr. Welch thought PPP was something he could use to get himself out of a hole,” his attorney Kelly Varnes said, alluding to legal issues associated with a gambling addiction under the procedure. He asked the judge to consider the nearly 90 days he has been in jail and recommendations from federal sentencing guidelines to help Welch “get back on his feet.”
The federal prosecutor disagreed.
“This is an atypical case, Your Honor,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Colin Rubich said. He said the case was unusual because it would normally fall below the threshold for crimes prosecuted by the federal government, but concerns over PPP funds were addressed.
“My concern is how we will restore Mr. Welch to some semblance of a law-abiding citizen,” Rubich said.
Like the defense, Rubich said a prison sentence would be inappropriate, but he argued that Welch should be considered for the maximum five years of probation to ensure the federal government could help him with his treatment and l help in the future by saying that “a probationary sentence will be more beneficial for us to help him.
“We know Mr. Welch will need help,” Rubich said. “Why not maximize the time we have (to help him)? »
“It appears that you both make the same recommendation,” Judge Christensen said before discussing the circumstances surrounding a number of other charges that have been brought before several different courts in at least two states. It was the fallout from these cases that compelled Welch to obtain the loan according to court documents and procedure.
“These state charges are really, I think, Mr. Welch’s biggest problem,” the judge said. He went on to point out that the root cause of Welch’s legal troubles stemmed from an untreated gambling addiction.
Christensen said he expected Welch to be released Tuesday and had 72 hours to register with the federal probation office in Billings to be assigned a probation officer.
“We have excellent probation officers here in Billings,” he says. “They will have your best interests at heart but will also be my eyes and ears.”
Christensen expressed hope that in addition to other conditions of his release, court-ordered gambling and mental health counseling would ultimately serve to help Welch.
“I hope you will abide by the terms of your release, and I will never see you again under these circumstances,” Christensen said.