Former Olympic speed skater Allison Baver stands trial Monday in Salt Lake City. She is accused of receiving $10 million in Paycheck Protection Program funds to fund an entertainment company that had no employees or payroll at the time she applied for the COVID-19 relief money.
Federal prosecutors say Baver, owner of Allison Baver Entertainment, then used thousands of those Paycheck Protection Program funds to pay HOA dues to avoid the planned foreclosure of her home and to pay for travel, meals and “other non-payroll-related expenses.” ” to pay .”
The Paycheck Protection Program is designed to offer forgivable loans to small businesses to help sustain jobs and offset other expenses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although prosecutors say in court filings that Baver’s entertainment company was not a fictional entity, they argue that none of the company’s planned entertainment projects were “in production or even pre-production” when it applied for the loans in early 2020, and to date, none have been produced.
Baver faces two federal charges of making false statements about influencing a bank. She also faces charges of money laundering in one count and contempt charges in another after prosecutors said she failed to produce documentation in response to a grand jury subpoena.
Earlier this week, the government dismissed six additional charges against Baver in connection with PPP loan applications. Baver previously pleaded not guilty to all charges against her.
Nearly 51,000 Utah businesses and nonprofits have received a total of more than $5 billion in loans through the Paycheck Protection Program. Baver’s company was one of just 41 of 6,737 loans that were $5 million or more.
Allegations against Baver
Allison Baver Entertainment began operations in October 2019 as a incorporated single-company LLC in Utah, according to a court filing. Through early 2020, Baver was attempting to develop several entertainment projects, including a reality show titled America’s Angels, a short film titled Monsters, and a movie titled Dead Princess, prosecutors say.
But until at least March 2020, the company had no payslips and Baver’s home address was listed as its principal place of business.
In March 2020, Baver began applying to the Small Business Administration for loans for the entertainment company and two other businesses registered with her, but her applications for economic injury and disaster loans were denied, the document said.
Around the same time, Baver was informed that her HOA intended to foreclose on her home after she failed to pay outstanding dues, the document said.
In April 2020, Baver completed, notarized and electronically signed “numerous” loan applications for the Paycheck Protection Program through Lendio, a Lehi-based lending agency, with each application demanding $10 million.
Baver’s average monthly paycheck, which is listed on each Lendio filing, varied from $4 million to over $4.7 million, the court filing said. The number of employees was initially 100, then 105 and finally 430. Lendio submitted their applications to a bank for consideration.
Around the same time, Baver personally submitted PPP loan applications to both Utah First Credit Union and Meridian Bank. The Utah First application also requested $10 million, claimed $4 million in average monthly payroll, and claimed 430 employees.
But in an email to Utah First, Baver said she had “no past payslips,” according to the court filing. In further emails, Bank Baver said it was not eligible for a PPP loan as it had no payslips since 2019 or early 2020.
This month, Baver tentatively discussed how much her entertainment company would have to pay cable network A&E to air America’s Angels once Allison Baver Entertainment was able to develop, produce and create the episodes — what not yet done was done, prosecutors say. Baver had also reached an agreement to acquire the rights to the “Monsters” screenplay, but no money was paid.
“The PPP loan program does not allow you to fund future expenses,” Utah First wrote on April 23, 2020, the court filing said.
The next day, and “with that knowledge,” Baver began filing PPP loans with Meridian Bank, according to prosecutors. She again claimed to have 430 employees and about $4.7 million in monthly payroll, but didn’t “specifically” state that her entertainment company had “no history of payroll,” but did instead used “ambiguous language,” the court filing said.
Meridian approved her loan about three days later.
Settling HOA Contributions and Other Charges
After Baver received the loan, prosecutors said she contacted A&E to tell the network that she had received “funding” for the America’s Angels project. She also contacted a person involved with the “Monsters” film and said she “received a PPP loan to fund the film,” according to the court filing.
Prosecutors say Baver also wired more than $70,000 of the $10 million loan she received to two companies she controls, including High Rise Realty. That company then used the proceeds to pay off Baver’s outstanding HOA fees, the court filing said.
Through the entertainment company, the PPP proceeds were used to pay for travel, meals and other “non-wage-related expenses,” the filing said. The company also used $150,000 in PPP funds to fund a film called No Man of God, which prosecutors say amounted to money laundering.
Although tax returns show that the entertainment company paid wages totaling about $177,000 to nine employees, prosecutors said no Allison Baver Entertainment employees were hired or paid before the company received its PPP loan.
“The only evidence of payment by ABE to an independent contractor prior to receipt of the PPP loan is a payment of $5,000 to an attorney,” the court filing reads.
An Allison Baver Entertainment website states that the company “is the engine behind needle-moving stories.” We are single-minded in all film, television and lifestyle activities.”
In July 2020, The Salt Lake Tribune reported that little was known about Allison Baver Entertainment. A company employing 430 people in Utah would be considered one of the state’s largest employers, but at the time, the Utah Office of Economic Development and the Utah Film Commission were unaware of the company, The Tribune reported.
In an email to The Tribune earlier this year, Baver wrote that her company had “several projects in development,” each requiring a “significant number of employees,” though she didn’t specify which projects were .
After The Tribune published her report, Baver filed a statement that she intended to sue the news organization. As of Sunday, she had not filed a lawsuit.
Baver is due to appear in federal court early Monday. The process is expected to take five days.