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FOX 13 Investigates: Utah trial starts for Olympian who received pandemic bailout

Posted at 9:47 PM, Jun 25, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — The trial begins Monday for a former Olympic speedskater indicted after she received $10 million from the Paycheck Protection Program.

Allison Baver has pleaded not guilty to two counts of making false statements to a bank, a count of money laundering and one count of contempt. The trial is scheduled to last five days at the federal courthouse in Salt Lake City.

As FOX 13 reported in 2021 — months before the indictment — Baver had a film production company. She had told the state of Utah she had no more than four employees.

Then, when the pandemic struck, Baver applied for a PPP loan, submitting an application that said she had 430 employees and a monthly payroll of $4.7 million. Under the terms of the program, such loans were forgiven if the business maintained its employees and used the money for other approved expenses such as rent and utilities so long as all those workers and expenses exited at the start of the pandemic.

But prosecutors contend Baver had no employees and no monthly payroll.

In pre-trial filings, defense attorneys have argued the government isn’t looking at the totality of her application – that Baver submitted what’s called a “Good Faith Letter.”

It explained the projects were in the works but the pandemic interrupted the productions, including the planned hiring.

“It's the kind of argument that so depends on actual intent,” said Richard Gordon, a professor of practice at Arizona State University and an attorney who has been tracking the PPP and fraud.

Gordon said he has not seen another defendant accused of PPP-related crimes make an argument like Baver’s.

“It's really not a legal argument,” Gordon said. “It is a fact-based intent argument. And for that, you need to have evidence.”

The money laundering count stems from $150,000 the indictment says Baver paid to the film “No Man of God.” Elijah Wood stars as an FBI agent interviewing murderer Ted Bundy. Baver is listed as an executive producer of the movie.

Prosecutors in October unsealed a superseding indictment also charging Baver with a count of contempt. She’s accused of not complying with a subpoena seeking bank records. Prosecutors intend to call Baver’s former attorney to the witness stand to testify on that count.

Last week, prosecutors dismissed six other counts of making false statements to a bank. Baver’s attorneys had argued those counts were improper because the government charged Baver with a crime for each time she updated the loan application she submitted.

Federal Judge Jill Parrish also severed Baver’s company, Allison Baver Entertainment, from this week’s trial. That means the company itself will stand trial at a later date.

Court records show the government has seized at least $9.5 million of the money Baver and her company received. In a separate civil proceeding, the federal attorneys are asking a judge to let the government keep that money.

Baver last year filed a lawsuit against FOX 13 for defamation, invasion of privacy and other claims. A judge dismissed that suit last month.

Baver, 42, was a short-track speedskater who competed in three winter Olympics. In the 2010 games, she won a bronze medal as part of the 3,000-meter relay team.

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