Owner of trucking companies accused of fraudulently obtaining $667K in COVID-19 PPP relief loans

The owner of trucking companies in the Inland Empire and elsewhere in California, who was out on bond awaiting trial in a separate federal criminal case, was arrested Thursday on a criminal complaint alleging he fraudulently obtained more than $667,000 in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) COVID-19 pandemic relief loans.

Carl Bradley Johansson, 62, of Newport Beach, was charged with one count of bank fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud. He is expected to make his initial court appearance Thursday afternoon in United States District Court in Santa Ana.

According to federal authorities, Johansson was on pretrial release in a separate case that remains scheduled to go on trial on September 14. In that matter, Johansson is alleged to have schemed to defeat federal transportation laws by ordering the illegal repair of an oil tanker that resulted in a fatal explosion in 2014, and to have unlawfully avoided the payment of at least $298,562 in federal income taxes from 2012 to 2017.


Investigators said that in April 2020, under Johansson’s direction, the Ontario-based trucking company Western Distribution LLC applied for a PPP loan in the amount of $436,390. Johansson’s son was listed as the company’s owner on the loan application and the loan application was approved.

According to an affidavit unsealed Thursday, under Johansson’s direction, Western Distribution LLC immediately spent its PPP funds in May and June 2020, in large part on expenses unrelated to its payroll. Rather than use the funds to keep the company’s employees on staff, Johansson laid off most of the company’s employees, but rehired many of them in late 2020.

Also in April 2020, a different Johansson-controlled trucking company – a Merced County-based business identified in the affidavit as "Company A" – applied to another federally insured bank for its own PPP loan in the amount of $286,505, according to the affidavit. Johansson’s 85-year-old mother was listed as Company A’s owner on its PPP loan application, which was approved in the amount of $286,500.

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To create the impression that Western Distribution LLC had spent more of its PPP loan on its payroll than it actually did, in September 2020 Johansson moved 21 of Company A’s employees onto Western Distribution LLC’s payroll, even though those employees never worked for Western Distribution, LLC, the affidavit alleges. This allegedly occurred just before the company’s 24-week window for spending its PPP funds closed.

According to the affidavit, as a result of the ruse, Western Distribution LLC could falsely claim on its PPP loan forgiveness application in January 2021 that the company had met the requisite threshold of spending at least 60 percent of its PPP loan on payroll.

In March 2021, Johansson allegedly caused Western Distribution LLC to repeat the same fraudulent representations concerning its employee lists and payroll numbers when the company submitted a second PPP loan application, this time for $231,527. The second loan application was approved.

The total loss alleged in this case is approximately $667,917.

If convicted of both charges, Johansson would face a statutory maximum sentence of 70 years in federal prison.

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