MARBLEHEAD — A Marblehead man and woman are facing federal charges for what prosecutors call a “brazen” COVID relief scam.

Brian Bushell, 47, and Tracey Stockton, 64, have been charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and illegal money transactions. They are due to appear in federal court on Thursday afternoon.

Investigators say the pair claimed more than $3.5 million in COVID relief funds and spent the money on expensive wine, property renovations and more.

Bushell is a self-styled Orthodox Christian monk who called himself “Father” and “Rev. Bushel.

Stockton was an attorney for several Bushell companies. The couple lived together in a house in Marblehead which they called the Annunciation House.

Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins said the couple allegedly applied for money through the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act. They also reportedly submitted numerous applications for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds for Bushell’s organizations.

During their applications, Bushell and Stockton allegedly submitted false income statements that fabricated the organizations’ income and expenses.

Rollins said the couple spent more than $1 million of CARES Act money renovating two Marblehead properties they planned to turn into a monastic compound. Facilities included a chapel, beer hall, beer garden, antique furniture valued at approximately $40,000, and audio-video equipment valued at approximately $90,000.

Prosecutors allege Bushell, who said he took a vow of poverty, used the funds to buy more than $40,000 worth of Swiss watches, a $7,000 designer handbag for Stockton and other luxury items.

“Pandemic relief funds aren’t ‘free money’ – they’re a lifeline designed to help business owners and nonprofit leaders facing real economic hardship. Our government should not and will not foot the bill for luxury designer handbags and lavish lifestyles. Hard-working people deserve these funds,” Rollins said in a statement.

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