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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Arkansas man pleads guilty to $16.5 million in COVID fraud in Spokane federal court

An Arkansas man pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court in Spokane to fraudulently obtaining more than $16.5 million in COVID relief funds.

Tyler K. Penix, also known as Tyler Andrews, 37, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

Andrews is originally from Bentonville, Arkansas, but he received more than $300,000 for two purported businesses in Spokane.

His conviction is the most significant loss investigated by the Eastern Washington COVID-19 Fraud Strike Force, according to a news release sent by U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, Vanessa R. Waldref.

“COVID-19 relief programs quickly ran out of money due to the number of businesses that requested funding,” Waldref said. “Meaning that struggling, deserving small businesses were not able to obtain critically needed funding to keep their businesses afloat during the shutdowns and disruptions caused by the COVID pandemic.”

Andrews largely stole from the CARES Act, a federal stimulus bill designed to support the economy during the pandemic. He submitted dozens of applications for funding for businesses owned by himself and others but that in reality, he did not own.

Two of those applications were for businesses located in Spokane and claimed to have been owned by Yuriy Ansishchenko, who currently has pending charges against him.

Andrews faces a maximum of 20 years in prison. He is set to be sentenced in January.