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Ex-Kansas legislator convicted of COVID relief fraud sentenced to more than 2 years in US prison

Former Republican state Rep. Michael Capps of Wichita was sentenced Thursday in U.S. District Court in Wichita.

A former Kansas lawmaker who was convicted of 12 felonies for lying on applications for federal COVID-19 relief was sentenced Thursday to two years and three months in prison, according to online court records.

An attorney for former Republican state Rep. Michael Capps argued for probation in court documents, citing Capps’ Air Force service in a combat zone. But prosecutors asked for a sentence of four years and three months in prison, arguing in court documents that he “continues to show neither remorse nor contrition" over stealing nearly $500,000 in funds meant to help businesses remain afloat during the coronavirus pandemic.

In addition to the prison time, U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren sentenced Capps to two years of supervised release, and he ordered him to pay more than a half-million dollars in restitution and the forfeiture of illegal proceeds, The Wichita Eagle reported.

A jury convicted the 45-year-old former lawmaker in December of four counts of wire fraud, four counts of money laundering, three counts of making false statements on loan applications and one count of bank fraud. The jury acquitted him of six charges, and another charge was dismissed before his trial.

Capps served a single term in the Kansas House in 2019-20 and lost his 2020 Republican primary race.

Prosecutors said Capps filed forms inflating the number of employees he had at two businesses and a sports foundation, then applied for loans to pay the nonexistent employees.

In a court filing ahead of Thursday's hearing, Capps' attorney Kurt Kerns described Capps as a “single father and disabled American veteran who has no criminal history” and called for a sentence of five years of probation.

Capps served in the Air Force in Afghanistan and Pakistan for nearly seven months in 2001-02 under “harsh and dangerous combat conditions” and received multiple decorations, the defense filing said. Capps was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in 2018, the filing said, and the condition makes people more likely to engage in risky behavior.

The defense filing also said Capps suffers from medical problems such as high blood pressure and would be “at a higher risk of death or serious illness” if he contracts COVID-19, which is more likely in prison.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Molly Gordon argued in the prosecutors' sentencing memo that Capps had engaged in “goal-oriented deceit," using fake payroll numbers, employment data and revenue figures in filling out loan applications.

“This Court should reject the defendant's continued efforts to avoid responsibility, which signal his likelihood to persist in similar conduct in the future,” Gordon wrote.