By Ruth Brown, Idaho Reports
On Wednesday, a federal judge sentenced former Idaho U.S. Congressional candidate Nicholas Jones to two years and six months in prison for his misuse of disaster relief funds.
Jones challenged incumbent Rep. Russ Fulcher in the 2020 Republican primary to represent Congressional District 1.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for Idaho said Jones, 36, of Boise, created a scheme to use COVID-19 relief funds for personal expenditures and filing a false report with the Federal Elections Commission by concealing thousands of dollars of in-kind contributions by employees.
Jones pleaded guilty to wire fraud and falsification of records on June 1.
In addition to the prison sentence, Jones must pay a $100,000 fine and $90,564.84 in restitution.
According to court documents, Jones is a small business owner who applied for and received $753,600 in COVID-19 relief funds, primarily from the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. Despite certifying that the funds would only be used for business-related expenditures, Jones used a significant portion of these funds for personal expenses, including car payments, life insurance policies, and political advertisements, according to a news release from the Department of Justice.
“In 2020, Jones ran as a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives and told employees of his small business that they could continue to be paid their normal wages if they worked on his congressional campaign. Employees reported to work on behalf of Jones’s congressional campaign and were paid thousands of dollars in wages through Jones’s small business including, in part, with funds Jones had received as part of a PPP loan,” the DOJ claims.
After losing the primary election, Jones caused his campaign committee to file a campaign finance report with the FEC that omitted any in-kind contributions from any entity or individual other than Jones, including the thousands of dollars of in-kind contributions to his campaign in the form of employee time and work, according to the press release.