FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – A Clovis businessman has pleaded guilty to stealing $1.4 million in COVID-19 relief money, according to the Department of Justice.

According to court documents, 48-year-old Ruben Mireles, of Clovis, owned and operated a farm labor contracting business in Kings County. His business initially went by the name Vista Pacific Labor Solutions Inc. (VPLS) and then changed its name to Calzona Ag Management Inc., doing business as Vista Pacific Farm Management (CAM).

In January 2021, after VPLS changed its name to CAM, officials say Mireles caused CAM to apply for and receive a COVID-19 Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan for $1.4 million from the Small Business Administration (SBA). Then, in April 2021, Mireles caused VPLS to apply for and receive another PPP loan for $1.4 million from the SBA based on false information.

In the second loan application, prosecutors say Mireles falsely represented to the SBA that VPLS was a separate company from CAM when, in fact, VPLS and CAM were the same company.

Officials say Mireles also falsely represented that he had not received any other PPP loans when, in fact, he had previously received CAM’s loan. Finally, Mireles falsely represented that he was not subject to any pending criminal charges when, in fact, he was facing state fraud charges.

Based on Mireles’ representations, VPLS’s loan application was approved and the $1.4 million, to which he was not entitled, was deposited into his bank account.

Mireles is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 20, 2024, and faces a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.