Four Charged in $35 Million COVID-19 Relief Fraud Scheme | OPA

A federal grand jury in Houston returned a superseding indictment, which was unsealed today, charging four added folks for fraudulently obtaining and laundering tens of millions of bucks in forgivable Paycheck Protection System (PPP) financial loans guaranteed by the Smaller Small business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Support, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. In full, 15 folks across two states have now been billed in the conspiracy.

In accordance to courtroom documents, Hamza Abbas, 29, Khalid Abbas, 55, Abdul Fatani, 55, all of Richmond, Texas and Syed Ali, 53, of Sugar Land, Texas, conspired with other individuals to submit a lot more than 80 phony and fraudulent PPP mortgage apps by falsifying the range of staff and the normal regular payroll costs of the applicant firms. In total, the defendants sought more than $35 million in PPP mortgage cash and obtained approximately $18 million in PPP loan proceeds.

The superseding indictment more alleges that the defendants laundered a part of the fraudulent mortgage proceeds by composing checks from organizations that been given PPP financial loans to bogus staff. These that obtained checks bundled some of the defendants and their kin, in accordance to the costs. The pretend paychecks ended up then allegedly cashed at Fascare International Inc. dba Almeda Lower price Retailer – a check-cashing organization. The superseding indictment alleges that over 1,100 fake paychecks, totaling far more than $3 million in fraudulent PPP loan proceeds had been cashed at Almeda.

Amir Aqeel, 53, of Houston, Texas Siddiq Azeemuddin, 42, of Naperville, Illinois Rifat Bajwa, 53, of Richmond, Texas Pardeep Basra, 52, of Houston, Texas Mayer Misak, 41, of Cypress, Texas Mauricio Navia, 42, of Katy, Texas and Richard Reuth, 58, of Spring, Texas, were being earlier indicted for their involvement in the fraudulent financial loan scheme. Aqeel, Bajwa, Basra, Misak, and Navia are also named defendants in the superseding indictment.

Azeemuddin and Reuth pleaded guilty for their involvement in the scheme on Oct. 8 and 9, respectively. 4 other men and women – Abdul Farahshah, 70, Jesus Acosta Perez, 31, and Bijan Rajabi, 68, all of Houston, Texas and Raheel Malik, 41, of Sugar Land, Texas – have also pleaded guilty for their involvement in the plan. Malik pleaded responsible to a a person-depend info charging him with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and revenue laundering on Oct. 8. Farahshah, Perez, and Rajabi every single pleaded responsible to a one particular-rely data charging them with conspiracy to dedicate wire fraud on Nov. 30.

The defendants in the superseding indictment are all charged with conspiracy to dedicate wire fraud and wire fraud. Aqeel, Khalid Abbas, Ali, and Fatani are also charged with dollars laundering. Aqeel is also charged with aggravated identity theft and is alleged to have submitted PPP mortgage programs by stealing the identities of uninvolved get-togethers. The defendants are scheduled for their first court visual appeal tomorrow in advance of U.S. Justice of the peace Choose Andrew M. Edison of the U.S. District Court docket for the Southern District of Texas. If convicted, the defendants experience a utmost penalty of 20 many years in jail for each count of wire fraud, and 10 several years in jail per depend of money laundering. If convicted of aggravated identity theft, Aqeel faces a required minimum sentence of two many years in addition to the sentence imposed for the other offenses. A federal district courtroom judge will identify any sentence right after looking at the U.S. Sentencing Recommendations and other statutory components.

Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division Performing U.S. Lawyer Jennifer Lowery for the Southern District of Texas Inspector General Hannibal “Mike” Ware of the SBA–Office of Inspector Basic (SBA-OIG) Distinctive Agent in Demand Catherine Huber of the Federal Housing Finance Agency–Office of Inspector Normal (FHFA-OIG) Special Agent in Charge Mark B. Dawson of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Houston Inspector General Jay N. Lerner of the Federal Deposit Insurance policies Corporation–Office of Inspector Normal (FDIC-OIG) and Inspector Common J. Russell George of the Treasury Inspector Basic for Tax Administration (TIGTA) created the announcement.

The SBA-OIG, FHFA-OIG, HSI, FDIC-OIG, and TIGTA are investigating the situation. 

Demo Attorneys Louis Manzo and Della Sentilles of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Portion and Assistant U.S. Lawyer Rodolfo Ramirez of the Southern District of Texas are prosecuting the circumstance. Assistant U.S. Lawyer Kristine Rollinson is handling forfeiture matters.

The Fraud Segment prospects the Prison Division’s prosecution of fraud strategies that exploit the PPP. Considering that the inception of the CARES Act, the Fraud Segment has prosecuted about 150 defendants in extra than 95 felony instances and has seized above $75 million in hard cash proceeds derived from fraudulently acquired PPP funds, as well as numerous serious estate homes and luxury products acquired with these proceeds. Extra information can be observed at https://www.justice.gov/legal-fraud/ppp-fraud.

On Could 17, 2021, the Legal professional Normal established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the assets of the Office of Justice in partnership with agencies across govt to improve endeavours to battle and stop pandemic-related fraud. The Job Force bolsters attempts to look into and prosecute the most culpable domestic and worldwide criminal actors and helps businesses tasked with administering relief plans to avoid fraud by, among the other strategies, augmenting and incorporating present coordination mechanisms, pinpointing methods and approaches to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and harnessing information and facts and insights received from prior enforcement initiatives. For far more information and facts on the department’s reaction to the pandemic, please stop by https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.

Any person with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by contacting the Division of Justice’s National Heart for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or by way of the NCDF Web Grievance Form at https://www.justice.gov/catastrophe-fraud/ncdf-disaster-criticism-sort.

An indictment is merely an allegation, and all defendants are presumed innocent right until tested guilty past a realistic question in a court of legislation.