Crime and punishment in the world of ice and fire can be ruthless. From sky cells to torture to summary execution, it’s best not to get on the wrong side of the law in any of the Seven Kingdoms. However, any lessons about the swiftness of justice seem to have fallen on deaf ears for one man in North Carolina after he used Game of Thrones as his inspiration in a $1.7 million scheme to defraud the government.
Tristan Bishop Pan, 40, from Garner, NC, has been sentenced to prison after receiving $1.7 million in fraudulent COVID-19 relief funding. Pan submitted false Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan applications for businesses that did not exist and for employees he didn’t have. His companies were all named after Game of Thrones references.
Why Pan didn’t think anyone would spot that the Night’s Watch had applied for a loan is unclear. Other applications included loan requests for the White Walkers and Khaleesi. There is, however, no evidence that House Lannister was amongst those in need of money, despite them being all but guaranteed of a loan given how they always pay their debts.
Fake companies had names like “White Walkers,” “Night’s Watch” and “Khaleesi”
PPP loans were intended for small businesses facing hard times during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Federal officials say that Pan submitted at least 14 false applications, falsifying his tax filings and other documents to obtain the loans. Pan listed the purpose of these fake companies as real estate or real estate acquisition firms, claiming to be employing dozens of people and paying out tens of thousands in wages.
With billions of dollars in false PPP claims having ended up in the hands of con artists, U.S. Attorney Michael Francis Easley Jr. launched a task force to investigate false claimants last month. “There were a lot of folks who took advantage of that crisis to profit for themselves,” Easley told WRAL, adding that the task force wants “to ensure not just that we prosecute those who commit crimes, but that we also ensure crime doesn’t pay. We can have civil remedies and forfeitures of funds that were taken based on false representations and lies to the government.”
Pan pleaded guilty to wire fraud in August 2021 following almost a year of court proceedings. He received a sentence of 20 months in prison. He got lucky; after all, he could have tried to defraud the Iron Bank of Braavos, and they’re much less forgiving.