ST. LOUIS – A St. Louis man who helped at least 20 people file fraudulent pandemic loan applications that reaped $666,656 will spend several years behind bars.

A federal judge sentenced Jacob Eldridge, 45, to four years and nine months in prison on Tuesday in connection with the crimes, ranging from Jan. 1, 2021 to Jan. 13, 2022.

Investigators say Eldridge solicited at least 20 friends and acquaintances to file fraudulent applications for PPP loans. These loans were intended to help struggling business owners and their employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to his indictment, Eldridge often drafted and submitted fraudulent applications on behalf of those people. On at least 10 applications, Eldridge reported false or substantially inflated gross annual income figures to max out the loans. He also submitted bogus IRS forms on behalf of the businesses. 

In exchange for his help, many of the applicants paid Eldridge at least ten percent of the loan proceeds, totaling around $50,000.

“We were in a desperate situation… and you took advantage of it,” said U.S. District Judge John A. Ross to Eldridge during a federal court hearing Tuesday.

Eldridge pleaded guilty in May to one felony count of wire fraud. The FBI led the investigation.