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June 30, 2022

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Vancouver real estate developer accused of fraudulently obtaining COVID relief funds

By , Columbian staff writer

A Vancouver man has been indicted on federal charges in Portland alleging that he fraudulently obtained COVID-19 relief funds and laundered the money.

Michael James DeFrees, 60, was charged with wire fraud, bank fraud and money laundering. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon said he also has an address in Lake Havasu, Ariz.

Between April 2020 and April 2022, DeFrees is accused of claiming Economic Injury Disaster Loans and Paycheck Protection Program loans for two businesses under false pretenses, according to a U.S. Attorney’s Office news release.

The agency said that on applications for the loans, DeFrees claimed he was the sole owner of two businesses — a construction company, called Gateway National Corporation, in Washington and a real estate development company, called Yacht Harbor, LLC, in Oregon — and that he had never been convicted of a crime or placed on parole or probation. But investigators say that when he submitted the applications, he was serving a term of probation for a 2017 Washington conviction for falsifying records in a bankruptcy proceeding.

Once he received the loan payments, DeFrees then laundered some of the money through a third business, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

DeFrees made his initial appearance in federal court Thursday in Arizona, where he was released and ordered to appear for future hearings in Oregon, the news release states.

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