UNITED STATES NEWS

Ex-Kansas legislator who committed COVID relief fraud seeks to avoid prison sentence

May 10, 2023, 10:06 PM

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A former Kansas lawmaker who was convicted of 12 felonies for lying on applications for federal COVID-19 relief is trying to avoid spending any time in prison, with his attorney citing his Air Force service in a combat zone as one reason.

But prosecutors have asked a federal judge to sentence former Republican state Rep. Michael Capps, of Wichita, to four years and three months in prison. They have argued in court documents that he “continues to show neither remorse nor contrition” over stealing nearly $500,000 in funds meant to help businesses remain afloat during the coronavirus pandemic.

U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren scheduled Capps’ sentencing for Thursday in Wichita. A jury convicted the 45-year-old former lawmaker in December of four counts of wire fraud, four counts of money laundering, three counts of making false statements on loan applications and one count of bank fraud. The jury acquitted him of six charges, and another charge was dismissed before his trial.

Capps served a single term in the Kansas House in 2019-20 and lost his 2020 Republican primary race.

Prosecutors said Capps filed forms inflating the number of employees he had at two businesses and a sports foundation, then applied for loans to pay the nonexistent employees.

In a court filing ahead of Thursday’s hearing, Capps attorney Kurt Kerns described Capps as a “single father and disabled American veteran who has no criminal history” and called for a sentence of five years of probation.

Capps served in the Air Force in Afghanistan and Pakistan for nearly seven months in 2001-02 under “harsh and dangerous combat conditions” and received multiple decorations, the defense filing said. Capps was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in 2018, the filing said, and the condition makes people more likely to engage in risky behavior.

The defense filing also said Capps suffers from medical problems such as high blood pressure and would be “at a higher risk of death or serious illness” if he contracts COVID-19, which is more likely in prison.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Molly Gordon argued prosecutors’ sentencing memo that Capps had engaged in “goal-oriented deceit,” using fake payroll numbers, employment data and revenue figures in filling out loan applications.

“This Court should reject the defendant’s continued efforts to avoid responsibility, which signal his likelihood to persist in similar conduct in the future,” Gordon wrote.

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Follow John Hanna on Twitter: https://twitter.com/apjdhanna

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Ex-Kansas legislator who committed COVID relief fraud seeks to avoid prison sentence