WASHINGTON—Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin rebuked companies that inappropriately tap coronavirus hardship funds intended for small businesses and warned that they could face criminal liability if the money isn’t returned.

Saying that the approximately $660 billion Paycheck Protection Program wasn’t meant to be “social welfare for big business,” Mr. Mnuchin took aim at the Los Angeles Lakers for applying for funds, which the basketball team later returned amid a public uproar.

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