Eden Prairie man charged with COVID relief fraud of over $2.1 million

Kaeding fled to Colombia to avoid prosecution and was deported back to the United States on Nov. 12 of this year.

Harold Bennie Kaeding, a 72-year-old Eden Prairie man, has been charged with COVID relief fraud in addition to money laundering.

Between April and December of 2020, Kaeding applied for at least $2,182,625 in loans through both the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL).

He submitted the applications under the names of family members for four Minnesota entities: Voyager Shipping Company, AutoPay Inc., Harbor Holdings Corporation, and Harbor Corp. These four entities did not file any tax returns nor did they report any wages to a single employee in both 2019 and 2020.

Kaeding received $658,490 of PPP and EIDL funds and transferred the money to personal bank accounts for mortgage payments and wire transfers to family and friends.

Kaeding fled to Colombia to avoid prosecution and was deported back to the United States on Nov. 12 of this year, subsequently facing arrest in Miami, Florida, on Nov. 14. He appeared in court on Nov. 17 in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Florida.

Kaeding now is being charged with one count of money laundering and one count of wire fraud.

Back in July of this year, the government seized around $223,000 and an SUV from the Kaeding family. Kaeding’s wife and adult son, Zoraida Franco and Ben Kaeding, were named in a civil forfeiture lawsuit.

Ben Kaeding reportedly received $47,000 for claiming he owned Harbor Holdings Corp. and employed four employees. IRS and state records do not support this claim and no tax returns were ever filed.

Zoraida Franco filed for $215,000 on behalf of the company Harbor Corp. in addition to a $242,000 loan for AutoPay, Inc. She only received the $215,000 for Harbor Corp. Franco denied stealing any money when questioned by the Pioneer Press in July.

A May report identified 378 allegedly fake farms that received PPP money, including two orange groves in Minnesota, where it is impossible to grow oranges without a greenhouse.

The Small Business Administration’s Inspector General estimates that 55,000 potentially ineligible businesses were approved to receive PPP stimulus checks, totaling “approximately $7 billion.” Another 43,000 entities were given more money than their actual expenses can justify, costing nearly $12 billion.


Megan Olson

Megan Olson is a 2020 graduate of the University of Minnesota with degrees in political science and history. She works in public affairs in addition to serving on the Legislative Advisory Council for School District 196. She is also on the school board for FIT academy, a charter school in Apple Valley.