Defaulted contractor received millions in federal COVID aid despite laying off majority of company
BATON ROUGE - Three months before the pandemic hit and our world shut down, Kelly Sills—the owner of Coastal Bridge—sent out an email to all employees saying the company was ceasing all operations because there was no more cash for payroll.
That's when former employees tell the WBRZ Investigative Unit that Sills laid off nearly 90 percent of the company. Three months later, Sills applied for the PPP money, and received $2.6 million in April of 2020, according to records we obtained.
Documents show that money help save 75 jobs. In February of this year, Sills received another $2 million dollars in PPP money to save 75 jobs.
Internal emails from Coastal Bridge show Sills wrote on Dec. 23, 2019, "Coastal bridge company will cease all operations until further notice there is no more cash for payroll and other expenses since nationwide blindsided us and unexpectedly defaulted company last week."
Questions are being raised about why Sills got the PPP money and whether the application he filed was a fraud. Sills has not answered our questions since the WBRZ Investigative Unit began exposing him and all the money he owes entities and people.
In February, we showed you he owed Louisiana State Police nearly $1 million for work they performed on the Sunshine Bridge. Two weeks ago, we exposed Luis Nieves Rivera's story. Nieves Rivera needed his leg amputated after a freak crash. Despite Sills deducting health insurance from his paycheck, Sills never paid Blue Cross. As a result, Nieves Rivera was told in the hospital that he had no health insurance.
Tuesday, a company out of Gonzales said they are owed nearly $30,000 for work that Sills never paid them for.
"He owes NTS about $30,000, from contracts from two years ago," said Denny Kennard, branch manager for NTS.
Sills was back in the news this week after WBRZ obtained video of his arrest in Disney World. Sills was detained after he refused a temperature check at the resort, one of the park's COVID safety requirements. In that video, Sills was indignant and told officers he spent $15,000 on his family trip.
Kennard said he can't believe that Sills spent thousands at Disney World when there are so many people here who are owed money.
"How does he keep getting away with it? That's the question," Kennard said. "How does Kelly Sills keep getting away with what he does...? He's a crook."
Kennard doesn't believe his company will ever get repaid even though they've initiated legal proceedings.
"I hope you enjoyed your Disney World," Kennard said. "It will probably be your last one."
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