Officials believe an Orthodox Christian monk who claimed to have “taken a vow of poverty” and owned a brewery in Massachusetts used millions of dollars in CARES Act funds on expensive wine, a $40,000 watch, handbags and more, according to court documents.
Brian Andrew Bushell, 47, and Tracey M.A. Stockton, 64, were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and unlawful monetary transactions, U.S. Attorney Rachael S. Rollins’ office said.
Between April 2020 and January 2022, Bushell and Stockton submitted loan applications, supporting documentation and loan increase requests to lenders.
In total, they were given more than $3.5 million, officials said.
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But, court documents state, they both “consistently misrepresented the organizations’ revenues and operational and payroll expenses with the sole purpose of obtaining higher loan amounts.” They also “falsified financial statements and other supporting documents in order to secure these loans.”
Stockton was a registered attorney in Massachusetts, while Bushell said he was an Orthodox Christian monk who had trained at a monastery on Mount Athos in Greece, according to court documents. He also said he served as the “Guardian” of the Shrine of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, Patron of Sailors, Brewers and Repentant Thieves and the “Superior” of Annunciation House.
However, officials said they were unable to verify this.
Bushell went by “Father” or the Rev. Fr. Andrew Bushnell and controlled several Marblehead-based organizations, including an Orthodox Christian charitable foundation known as St. Paul’s Foundation; a “monastic house;” a purported residence for clergy, known as Annunciation House; Marblehead Brewing Co., a monastic brewery; and Marblehead Salt Co., a craft saltern.
Bushell and Stockton also lived together at Annunciation House in Marblehead, which had been registered as a religious corporation with the Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth on May 22, 2017.
Officials said Bushell and Stockton used COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) funds and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for personal expenses, including $50,000 to join the Centennial Society at the Economic Club of New York, a $40,200 watch, a $26,000 clock, $10,904 for 41 cases of wine from Gruet Winery, $6,805 on a monogrammed luxury handbag and $10,000 in Apple products.
Some of the money was used to pay a monthly mortgage on two locations Bushell had planned to turn into a brewery, beer garden and fellowship hall, court documents state. Of the money, the $136,301 was spent on the mortgage payments between January 2021 and July 2022 at 120 Pleasant and 124 Pleasant.
He had also planned to use one of the properties for Marblehead Salt, which produced and sold kosher, artisanal craft salt and donated profits to local charities, including St. Paul’s, documents state.
In the the Marblehead Salt application, two employees were listed as Bushell and “Father 1″ and described as “two Orthodox Christian monks that have each taken a vow of poverty,” court documents state.
At least $1.1 million was spent on general contractors and renovations of 120 Pleasant and 124 Pleasant. This included $24,000 in sinks and marble tile, more than $80,000 in appliances, about $50,000 for five gas fireplaces and nearly $40,000 for antique furniture, court documents state.
Court documents also claim Bushell used some of the funds to buy another property that would “be a rental property for Ukrainian or other refugees.” However, EIDL funds are only allowed to be used for a businesses operations ”and the purchase of a residential property is a non-permitted use of EIDL funds,” documents state.
Further, officials claim, the house was leased for a year beginning in November for $4,500 per month.
“He also indicated that he intended for 12 Conant to be a church rental property that would collect market or above-market rent,” court documents state.
“Pandemic relief funds are not ‘free money’ – they are a lifeline designed to help business owners and non-profit leaders experiencing real economic hardship,” Rollins said. “Our government should not and will not foot the bill for fancy designer handbags and lavish lifestyles. Hard-working people deserve these funds.”
Joseph R. Bonavolonta, special agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division, said he believes they “clearly knew that what they were doing was wrong, but they did it anyway.”
“Their alleged greed is an affront to every hard-working taxpayer, and during these challenging times where scammers are doing everything they can to defraud people of their hard-earned money, the FBI is doing everything we can to make sure they don’t succeed,” he said.
The charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. The charge of conspiracy to commit unlawful monetary transactions provides for a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000.
Bushell and Stockton are expected to appear in federal court in Boston Thursday at 1:15 p.m.