Austin woman shamed for PPP loan she never applied for, tied to Horseshoe Bay Resort

Investigative Summary:

An Austin woman was surprised to find out her business was approved for a multi-million dollar loan she says she didn’t apply for. Even more puzzling, the address listed for the loan is a resort in the Hill Country, the Horseshoe Bay Resort. Deb Gabor contacted KXAN for help after a week of defending herself from what she calls “shaming” on social media by critics of the Paycheck Protection Program. The bank that issued the loan said the blame for all of this lies with the Small Business Administration.

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Deb Gabor’s watch lit up last week with an email from someone she didn’t know and a message that seemed like just another a scam.

Deb Gabor said she found out one of her companies was listed on the Small Business Administration’s PPP loan database when she found this Facebook post. (Facebook)

“I noticed you have a hotel in Horseshoe Bay and was wondering if you could tell me where it is located,” the email stated.

The next day, Gabor discovered a Facebook post discussing her company, SkiergirlATX, LLC. That’s where she first learned SkiergirlATX, LLC apparently got approved for $2 million to $5 million in the Paycheck Protection Program. The PPP was established as part of the CARES Act to give taxpayer-funded loans to businesses to help them continue paying employees during the pandemic.

The Facebook post was shared by the Llano County News Wire — a 13,000-member Facebook group located in the Hill Country.

Gabor said people responding to the social media posts began tracking her down on the internet, assuming she was involved in some sort of multi-million dollar PPP loan fraud scheme.

“Unfortunately, there are people stalking me online because they’ve uncovered this business entity that doesn’t have a website, it doesn’t have a physical location, the registered agent is a residential address,” Gabor told KXAN. “People were able to track me down on Facebook and on Pinterest — believe it or don’t — to find out my identity. I have to say that is personally really, really frightening to me.”

SkiergirlATX, LLC

Gabor explained to KXAN she formed SkiergirlATX, LLC in December 2015. Texas Secretary of State records list the company at a home on Lonesome Valley Trail in Austin. The address is where Gabor lived when she created the limited liability company.

This address on Lonesome Valley Trail in Austin is the address listed for SkiergirlATX, LLC. It's where Deb Gabor once lived when she created the LLC in 2015. (KXAN Photo/Jody Barr)
This address on Lonesome Valley Trail in Austin is the address listed for SkiergirlATX, LLC. It’s where Deb Gabor once lived when she created the LLC in 2015. (KXAN Photo/Jody Barr)

Gabor said the LLC is a “pass through” company she uses to manage two rental homes she owns in Utah and Horseshoe Bay.

Gabor told KXAN she never applied for a PPP loan under the SkiergirlATX, LLC.

She did make several attempts to apply for a loan for her other business, Sol Marketing, in Austin.

The loan Gabor received for that business allowed her to keep the employees of her marketing firm working during the pandemic. Getting that loan required her to prove the need and to document her ownership of the marketing business, which included providing tax returns to the bank.

“It’s just really surprising to me, as difficult as that was to get a small PPP loan for this company, how easy it must have been for somebody else to just assume my name and then apply to a bank for a PPP loan and then receive 2 to 5 million dollars without my knowing about it,” Gabor said.

The 200 Hi Circle North Loan

On the Small Business Administration website, a database of approved PPP loans shows the amount of each loan, the borrowing company’s name and address, the number of jobs retained, the date of each loan and the bank that lent the money.

The list shows SkiergirlATX, LLC’s address listed as 200 Hi Circle North in Horseshoe Bay, Texas. That address is the Horseshoe Bay Resort. KXAN made multiple attempts to reach the resort’s management, but those messages were never returned.

The requested multi million dollar loan would retain 294 jobs.

The resort did obtain at least one PPP loan on April 27 of $2 – 5 million, according to SBA records. That loan went to an LLC named Horseshoe Bay Resort Holdings.

The resort claimed in its loan application that it would save 380 jobs with that taxpayer-funded loan. That loan was taken out with BancorpSouth Bank, according to the federal records.

Gabor learned SkiergirlATX LLC was approved for a PPP loan with FirstCapital Bank of Texas, so she contacted the bank trying to find out how that happened. None of her loan applications for her marketing company were filed with FirstCapital Bank of Texas.

The bank spent two days this week working to figure out why Gabor’s LLC showed up on the federal database. The bank, in a July 15 letter to Gabor blamed a “processing error” at the SBA for her LLC’s name showing up on the loan database. Gabor provided KXAN with her email communications with the bank.

“FirstCapital Bank of Texas did not process a PPP loan for your company, nor did you apply for a PPP loan with FirstCapital Bank of Texas,” the bank wrote. “We have sent a notification to the SBA of this error on their part.”

The FirstCapital Bank of Texas sent Deb Gabor a letter on July 15 telling her the Small Business Administration made a mistake that led to database showing her LLC received a $2-5 million loan from the PPP loan program.

The bank claimed an error happened when SBA’s “systems merged the data” and “input the wrong tax ID number for you, which happened to match our customer’s tax ID number who we did a PPP loan for,” Tracy Bacon, the bank’s chief operating officer, wrote in the letter.

“Bottom line is FirstCapital Bank had nothing to do with creating this error with SBA, but we will make sure that our customer’s PPP loan gets corrected, which should get the loan out of your name,” Bacon wrote.

The bank did not disclose the name of the business to which it loaned the $2-5 million in PPP funds. FirstCapital Bank of Texas did not respond to a message from KXAN for comment on this report.

If the PPP loan error isn’t corrected, Gabor fears she could be stuck with the responsibility of a multi-million dollar loan she never applied for.

“I am deathly afraid of that and, as a business owner, I have been through the meat grinder during this COVID time,” she said. “This has been a really, really difficult time for all of the businesses I’m involved with and this is a terrible time to be going through something like this.”

SBA: We don’t enter the data

In a call with SBA spokeswoman Nina Ramon on Monday, she confirmed to KXAN that the information entered into the PPP loan database is not done at the federal level. The information is entered by each bank.

Ramon could not discuss the details of the loans, citing privacy laws as the reason. Ramon listed possible scenarios as to what might have happened, but did not disclose what steps the SBA might take to figure out what happened.

Gabor said she filed a fraud complaint with the SBA’s Office of Inspector General last weekend. The OIG told KXAN the agency did not have statistics on the number of fraud complaints submitted since the March 29 inception of the loan program.

The Department of Justice has already started prosecuting PPP loan fraud. Since June 4, the DOJ has arrested nine people across the country for various federal crimes associated with PPP loan fraud. One-third of those prosecutions are against Texans.

KXAN contacted Sen. John Cornyn’s office to find out if the senator could help sort out what happened. Last week, Cornyn’s office promised a PPP audit following a KXAN report that uncovered a $28,000 PPP loan given to Democrat Congressional candidate Christine Mann’s political committee.

Cornyn’s spokeswoman told KXAN he would not be available at any point this week to discuss the Horseshoe Bay PPP loan or to discuss the status of his asking for a formal audit of the PPP.

PPP Loans in Texas

The U.S. Treasury Department published a list in July, naming 661,218 business that received PPP loans across the country. More than 52,000 of those businesses are in Texas.

The government listed business names on loans between $150,000 and $10 million. There are 337,237 active PPP loans given to Texas companies below the $150,000 threshold, but the SBA has not made those company names public.

The loans could become taxpayer-funded gifts to companies under a loan forgiveness program.  

“Forgiveness is based on the employer maintaining or quickly rehiring employees and maintaining salary levels. Forgiveness will be reduced if full-time headcount declines, or if salaries and wages decrease,” the SBA website shows.  

As of July 10, the latest SBA report, banks had lent companies $517,417,286,175 spread across 4.9 million loans. The SBA noted in its July 10 PPP report that $132,189,028,196 remained in the PPP loan pool.

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