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Crystal man gets PPP loan he didn't apply for

When an extra $150,000 showed up in Tom Fahling's checking account he realized immediately it was an error, especially when he saw it was a small business loan

MINNEAPOLIS — Tom Fahling knew something wasn't right when his checking account at Sunrise Banks suddenly grew by $150,000. The Crystal retiree's part-time job as a desk clerk doesn't pay that kind of money.

"I was brought up to know how much money you've got," Fahling told KARE. "I check my balance on my checking account. I’m the old school."

And yet, there it was. As plain as day, a $150,000 deposit with a description he knew didn't fit: a Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, loan.

"No, I didn’t apply for a loan. That’s how I knew they made a mistake. I don’t have a business."

The expansive loan program features loans originated by lenders and backed by the Small Business Administration. Some business owners will qualify for full loan forgiveness, while others will get very low interest rates and deferred payments.

The PPP program has taken some criticism because some of the companies that qualified aren't what we think of as "small" businesses. But what happened to Fahling was a different issue altogether. It was a old-fashioned data entry mistake.

It took place after someone else's legitimate loan had been approved and bank employees were validating the account number before transferring the loan money to it.

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"We made a simple keying error in the account number, which just happened to be a number or two off," David Reiling, CEO of Sunrise Banks, told KARE.

Reiling said normally if someone were to type in the wrong number the computer would flag it immediately and alert to bank employee, but in this case the wrong number was an actual account number belonging to Fahling so there was no error message.

"This unintentional error happened to be someone else’s bank account, an actual bank account. That's statistically almost impossible, but it did happen and we apologize for the mistake."

He said Sunrise Banks originated 1,800 PPP loans totaling nearly $220 million over a relatively short time frame, which required employees to work night and day. That's consistent with the bank's mission of serving underserved areas of the Twin Cities. 

Reiling said when the PPP program was first launched employees had to do a lot of the processing manually, tasks that have subsequently become more automated. Sunrise asked for an audit of its PPP program and discovered that Fahling was the only person who received a misdirected loan deposit.

"But the fact is we really appreciate Thomas Fahling and his honest integrity for letting us know. Thomas in this case is the hero for doing the right thing."

When the unsolicited loan first arrived May 5 Fahling thought he'd just wait for the bank to discover the error and undo it. But by May 22 the extra $150,000 was still there so he called the bank and asked for the person in charge of the PPP loans.

"About 10 minutes after I contacted them it was gone!"

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