Grey Oaks resident sues country club for PPP loan fraud

Reporter: Gina Tomlinson Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:

A man is accusing his country club of committing fraud. He claims the club received a PPP loan from the government even though it shouldn’t have, and the case is heading to court.

While many small businesses struggle to bounce back from giant pandemic losses, others are in the hot seat for getting government help.

It’s one of the reasons William Verhelle, a finance executive, decided to sue Grey Oaks Country Club in Collier County.

“I guess we’re still trying to understand why they would need a million-dollar PPP loan,” Verhelle said.

Verhelle and his wife have been members at Grey Oaks for eight years.

“We still love living here,” Verhelle said.

However, they began to question financial decisions after the luxurious golf club switched to community ownership.

“We requested financial statements. We requested budgets,” Verhelle said. “Last year, for example, in 2020, we requested repeatedly if we could just get a copy of what the budget was for the current year, and we were continuingly denied that information.”

Verhelle’s lawsuit claims the country club’s net loss from 2017 to 2019 adds up to $15 million, and the club has engaged in fraud by taking over $2 million dollars in PPP money.

”When I heard they were taking out the PPP loan, we pointed out that we didn’t think that they were eligible and encouraged them to double check it and was kind of surprised that they went ahead anyway,” Verhelle said.

The general manager at Grey Oaks says the loan allowed the club to bring back roughly 60 employees and argues they met requirements.

“They’re on a list of companies that we feel made them ineligible as a private club that discriminates on membership for reasons other than capacity,” Verhelle said. “There’s a certification that’s part of the PPP process, where you certify that you really need the money. You’re not going to survive. I guess, we just didn’t understand.”

The case is due back in court Jan. 28. One of the topics is a motion to dismiss filed by the attorney for Grey Oaks.

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