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Sioux Falls man now facing 16 counts of COVID-related fraud

By: - June 12, 2023 6:16 pm
The federal courthouse in Sioux Falls. (John Hult/South Dakota Searchlight)

The federal courthouse in Sioux Falls. (John Hult/South Dakota Searchlight)

SIOUX FALLS — A Sioux Falls man already facing possible federal prison time for bank fraud has been charged with two additional counts of wire fraud for allegedly lying to secure another $700,000 in COVID relief funds.

James Bunker, 52, of Sioux Falls, was initially indicted on a dozen fraud-related charges related to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Main Street Lending Program, both of which were designed to offer economic relief for businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The alleged fraud spanned from June 2020 through July 2021. 

The first charges were tied in part to statements Bunker made to multiple South Dakota banks when applying for pandemic relief. Bunker “significantly underreported” his financial liabilities, the indictment says, by failing to make mention of a large tax lien and providing false financial statements for his businesses.

He also faced wire fraud charges for transferring the allegedly ill-gotten gains from a Nebraska bank to one in South Dakota, and he’s accused of lying about his receipt of more than $2 million in COVID loans in an application for loan forgiveness filed with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

He was charged with two additional counts last May based on statements made to the SBA. 

On Monday, U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Veronica Duffy read him his rights on the two new charges, which were filed Friday for two wire transfers from the SBA for $350,000 and $350,400.

Each of the July 2021 transfers came when Bunker allegedly asked to increase the amount of previously secured SBA loans. Bunker now faces a total of 16 counts of fraud-related crime, and could be given up to 20 years in prison on each of the two new counts alone.

Duffy entered a plea of not guilty for Bunker at the initial appearance, saying he could change his plea at a future date after reviewing the charges. His only words in the courtroom came as answers to a series of yes-or-no questions on his understanding of his rights.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Paige Petersen said the two new counts also carry fines of up to $250,000.

The indictment also says that if convicted, Bunker would need to forfeit four pieces of property in Sioux Falls and $20,000.

According to the ProPublica Database of PPP loans, the companies owned or managed by Bunker that are mentioned in the indictment received several COVID-related cash infusions.

Genuine Builders of Arlington, for example, got a $1.07 million loan in April 2020 to cover payroll, and the loan was forgiven in February of 2021. Bunker is “president, CEO, General Manager, and sole shareholder” of the concrete construction company, according to its website

Tri-State Ag Services, also mentioned in the indictment, got a loan of $1.4 million through the PPP program.

An investigation by the Associated Press says the U.S. government has charged more than 2,230 defendants with pandemic-related fraud crimes and is conducting thousands of investigations.



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John Hult
John Hult

John is the senior reporter for South Dakota Searchlight. He has more than 15 years experience covering criminal justice, the environment and public affairs in South Dakota, including more than a decade at the Sioux Falls Argus Leader.