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Sterling contractor charged in illegal COVID-19 relief loan scam

The James M. Fitzgerald U.S. Courthouse & Federal Building in downtown Anchorage on Aug. 31, 2022.
Valerie Lake
Alaska Public Media
The James M. Fitzgerald U.S. Courthouse & Federal Building in downtown Anchorage on Aug. 31, 2022.

A Sterling man was indicted by a federal grand jury last month for a scam involving COVID-19 relief business loans.

According to a federal indictment, 55-year-old Kent Tompkins illegally schemed to receive federal loans of more than $300,000 between 2020 and 2021.

Tompkins requested the loans on behalf of his business J & B Construction, a Sterling-based general contractor.

The indictment says Tompkins applied for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan, a program created in 2020 to provide relief to small businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. On his application for a $95,000 loan, Tompkins checked a box saying he was not the subject of any criminal indictment.

However, Tompkins had been charged with multiple felony theft charges in South Dakota back in 2018. He was indicted for creating a sham collection agency that attempted to steal more than $700,000 from elderly victims; he was only successful in stealing about $40,000.

Tompkins received the $95,000 loan. Then, in Nov. 2021, he applied for another loan, this time for almost $300,000. In response to an application question about whether he had been convicted of any crimes related to fraud, Tompkins falsely responded no, although by this point, he had been convicted on three counts. For his crimes in South Dakota, he received a 10-year prison sentence that was eventually suspended. Instead, he was given five years probation and a fine.

A federal grand jury charged Tompkins with two federal wire fraud counts in March. According to the indictment, upon conviction, he’ll be required to return any money acquired through the scheme.

An FBI agent arrested Tompkins last Tuesday at his home in Sterling, and he made a first court appearance at the federal court for the District of Alaska in Anchorage the following day. Tompkins’s public defender did not return a request for comment on the case.

Riley Board is a Report For America participant and senior reporter at KDLL covering rural communities on the central Kenai Peninsula.