In what appears to have been an elaborate scheme to defraud the government - one that ultimately ended with him and his wife, Nina, skipping town after breaking promises to deliver furniture to waiting customers - 45-year-old Rene Michael Ward admitted in federal court this week that he submitted false documents and lied to the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Court documents indicate that Rene Ward now lives in Chantilly, Va.
He and his wife ran W. Home Furnishings in River Ranch for four years until First Bank and Trust stepped in and seized what was left in the 2,200 square-foot rental space in the summer of 2011. They were both indicted on seven counts in January 2013, including conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, wire fraud (two counts), submitting a false document to a department or agency of the U.S. and making a false statement to the U.S. SBA (three counts).
If Rene meets the terms of his plea agreement, prosecutors will dismiss the charges against his wife.
According to evidence presented at Monday's guilty plea, Ward submitted numerous false documents to the SBA in an attempt to have the SBA agree to a compromise offer to settle an outstanding loan of $511,400 for a $10,000 lump sum payment.
Rene faces five years in prison and three years of supervised release for one count of filing false documents to a government agency and also faces two years in prison and one year of supervised release for one count of making false statements to the SBA. He also faces a $250,000 fine for both counts and must make restitution to all of his victims (prosecutors are still determining who was victimized and how much they are owed). He will be sentenced May 16.
The couple also agreed to cooperate fully in the investigation into their case and must share any information they have about any other crimes.
Read more on the Wards' troubled stint in Lafayette here.