Irvington man sentenced to time served for double-dipping on COVID-19 programs

Published: Jun. 1, 2023 at 1:51 PM CDT
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MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - An Irvington man who admitted to illegally collecting benefits from two different programs tied to COVID-19 and has been in jail since before his indictment will not have to spend any more time in federal custody.

Chief U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Beaverstock sentenced Michael Cazzie Sellers Sr. on Thursday to the time he already has served and ordered him released from federal custody. At the request of prosecutors as part of the plea bargain, the judge dismissed bankruptcy fraud charges.

Sellers, 46, pleaded guilty in February to wire fraud. He admitted that he simultaneously applied for unemployment benefits in 2020 under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program and the Paycheck Protection Program. The former measure expanded eligibility to people who ordinarily were not allowed to collect unemployment. The latter made low-interest loans available to businesses. Those loans, which could be converted to grants, were designed to keep workers on the payroll when the pandemic shut down businesses.

According to a written plea agreement, Sellers falsely indicated that he was an employee who had been laid off as a direct result of COVID-19 and that he did not work or receive income from another employer. During that time, Sellers acknowledged, he owned a tow truck company operating under the names Anytime Towing, Rapid Towing and Got 1 Towing.

Based on the defendant’s fraudulent application, he received at least $25,026 from April 2020 to June 2021, according to the plea agreement. He also got $20,000 for Anytime Towing & Recovery from a program called Revive Plus, which Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey created with COVID-19 funds the state received under the Coronavirus, Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

Beaverstock ordered to make minimum monthly payments of $200 towards paying back the money he illegally received.

Sellers will be supervised by the U.S. Probation Office for five years. During the first four months of that, he will be under home confinement. The judge also ordered him to undergo substance-abuse testing the treatment.