A North Carolina man found guilty of fraudulently claiming $1.7 million in Covid relief funds was handed a 20-month prison sentence Tuesday after he tried to trick U.S. officials with business names inspired by the hit HBO show Game of Thrones.
According to documents filed by the Department of Justice, Tristan Bishop Pan, 40, submitted numerous fraudulent Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan applications – intended for small businesses facing hardship in the early days of the pandemic – to federally insured banks on behalf of scam companies named White Walker, Khaleesi, and The Night’s Watch, among others.
Fans of the popular fantasy program may recognize the names of the non-existent businesses as not-so subtle references to the program – which ended its eight-year run in May 2019.
Federal agents poring over the applications were apparently also fans of the show, uncovering Pan’s ruse in September after flagging the companies and noticing inconsistencies in statements about their employees and payroll expenses.
According to documents filed by the Department of Justice, Tristan Bishop Pan (not pictured) submitted numerous fraudulent PPP loan applications reserved for small businesses to federally insured banks on behalf of scam companies White Walker, Khaleesi, and The Night’s Watch. Above, a ‘White Walker’ from the hit HBO show
A false website Pan created for one of his fraudulent businesses, called the Pan School of Real Estate
Prosecutors alleged that Pan submitted at least 14 false PPP loan applications seeking $6 million in taxpayer funds intended for businesses hit hard by Covid-19
The scheme, feds say, saw the fanboy scammer submit at least 14 false PPP loan applications seeking $6million of government money intended for businesses hit hard by the then-rampant virus and resulting business lockdowns.
Prior to being caught in the fall of 2020, Pan successfully filched nearly $2 million in taxpayer funds for made-up companies, including one of the three Game of Thrones-inspired ones.
The PPP loan applications were all supported by fake documents, including falsified tax filings, Pan’s indictment revealed.
He pleaded guilty to wire fraud in August 2021, after nearly a year of court proceedings.
One of the fraudulent businesses founded by Pan was named Khaleesi, in reference to the Game of Thrones character known on the show as ‘Mother of Dragons’
Prosecutors named a number of fraudulent business in their indictment of Pan (above), including a number that bore names from the hit HBO show Game of Thrones
Pan formed several companies in 2019 and listed their purpose as real estate or real estate acquisition firms, filings with the North Carolina secretary of state disclosed.
Pan claimed the companies employed dozens of people and boasted tens of thousands of dollars in monthly payroll, in order to warrant large loans funded by taxpayer dollars.
However, in reality, the ‘businesses’ employed no one.
He similarly applied for loans on several other companies he had created, including a number with strange names – including several inspired by Game of Thrones.
He was the founder of several real companies that were doing actual business, though feds accused Pan of significantly inflating the number of employees those companies had as well.
A website for one of Pan’s ventures called the Pan School of Real Estate, which feds say boasts the same address as another scam business, advertises itself online as ‘North Carolina’s answer to affordable, fun, and timely real estate education.’
Another business founded by Pan was named for ‘The Night’s Watch’ – a group of men who guard the fictional land of Westeros from mystical zombie-like creatures on Game of Thrones
An online directory for the Pan Insurance Agency – located at the same address – is stamped with a Better Business Bureau warning that mail sent to the address to confirm that a business was indeed operating were all returned by the post office.
U.S. Attorney Michael Francis Easley Jr., who has launched a new federal task force to go after people like Pan who scam taxpayers out of COVID-19 relief funds, says Pan was just one of thousands of criminals sharing ways to defraud the system during the pandemic on online ‘networks.’
‘We want to ensure not just that we prosecute those who commit crimes, but that we also ensure crime doesn’t pay,’ Easley said. ‘We can have civil remedies and forfeitures of funds that were taken based on false representations and lies to the government.’
In December, cops arrested New Jersey man who allegedly exploited a government-used facial recognition system to claim nearly a million dollars in fake pandemic-boosted unemployment payments from a state more than 2,000 miles away, by posting photos of himself in ginger wigs.
Through the scam, feds said the suspects able to ‘cheat California out of $900,000 in fake unemployment payments
Pan’s attorney didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.