PROVIDENCE, R.I. (CBS) —  Federal agents arrested a pair of men from Massachusetts and Rhode Island Tuesday and said that they are the first in the nation to be charged with fraudulently seeking loans under the Paycheck Protection Program. David Staveley of Andover, 52, and David Butziger of Warwick, 51, are accused of trying to secure $543,959 in loans meant for small businesses struggling because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The pair allegedly claimed to be paying dozens of workers at four different businesses when in fact they did not have any employees working for them, according to U.S. Attorney Aaron Weisman. The charges they are facing include conspiracy to make false statements, bank fraud and identity theft.

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Staveley, who also goes by Kurt D. Sanborn, allegedly claimed he had employees working at two restaurants in Rhode Island and one in Berlin, Massachusetts while seeking more than $438,500. But the former Remington House in Warwick and On The Trax in Berlin have been closed since before the COVID-19 pandemic began. And he has no connection to Rhode Island’s Top Of The Bay restaurant that was also in his claim, according to the U.S. attorney.

Law enforcement outside the Remington House (WBZ-TV)

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Butziger allegedly sought more than $105,000 from the Small Business Administration for a company called Dock Wireless. But the state of Rhode Island told investigators it had no record of employee wages being paid at the company.

FBI Boston Special Agent In Charge Joseph Bonavolonta said the arrests should “serve as a warning to others that the FBI and our law enforcement partners will aggressively go after bad actors like them who are utilizing the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to commit fraud.”

Kristina O’Connell, the special agent in charge of the IRS-Criminal Investigation said the alleged actions of the pair are “criminally reprehensible.”

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“Defrauding a government program designed to provide financial assistance to small business owners during the Coronavirus pandemic is tantamount to taking money directly out of the pockets of those who need it most,” she said in a statement.