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Utah jury convicts former Olympian in pandemic bailout trial

Posted at 6:06 PM, Jun 29, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — A federal jury convicted a former Olympic speedskater in a trial focused on the $10 million her company received from the Paycheck Protection Program.

Allison Baver was found guilty Thursday of two counts of making false statements to a bank, a count of money laundering and one count of contempt.

As FOX 13 News reported in 2021, months before the indictment, Baver had a film production company, and 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.

"Allison Baver Entertainment had zero employees and no monthly payroll," said prosecutor Jamie Thomas. "We’re very pleased with the verdict... The United States Attorney’s Office is committed to aggressively prosecuting people who abuse COVID-relief programs."

In pre-trial filings, defense attorneys argued the government wasn’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.

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 was accused of not complying with a subpoena seeking bank records.

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.

"We will protect those funds and try to return them to the government," said prosecutor Jennifer Muyskens.

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.

She will remain out of custody until her sentencing, which is scheduled for October 30, 2023.

Prosecutors said it's too early to say how much time she could spend behind bars.