The Department of Justice charged seven individuals Tuesday for allegedly participating in a scheme regarding the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) that fraudulently netted $16 million in forgivable loans, according to the DOJ.
All seven individuals, six of whom are from Texas, have been charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud, with two of the defendants being charged additionally with money laundering, the DOJ announced.
The individuals allegedly conspired to obtain the funds by submitting more than 80 fraudulent PPP loan applications that contained falsified records of the number of employees and monthly payroll expenses. Additional loan applications were allegedly submitted through companies of third parties, who then received kickbacks. Fraudulent bank records and fake federal tax forms were also allegedly submitted, the DOJ stated.
Seven Charged in Connection with a COVID-Relief Fraud Scheme Involving more than 80 Fraudulent Loan Applications Worth Approximately $16 Million https://t.co/XO4DAXv7VH
— Justice Department (@TheJusticeDept) November 17, 2020
“Some fraudsters create the most complicated schemes to steal money from the taxpayer,” U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick of the Southern District of Texas said. “Just imagine how productive they could be if they put their creativity and effort into noble and useful work. With the great work of so many partner agencies, we will bring to justice those who steal from the treasury.”
The individuals charged are Amir Aqeel, 52, and Pardeep Basra, 51, of Houston, Texas; Rifat Bajwa, 51, of Richmond, Texas; Mayer Misak, 40, of Cypress, Texas; Mauricio Navia, 41, of Katy, Texas; Richard Reuth, 57, of Spring, Texas; and Siddiq Azeemuddin, 41, of Naperville, Illinois. Aqeel and Azeemuddin are the two charged with money laundering. (RELATED: REPORT: Rapper Diamond Blue Smith Used $1 Million Of PPP Loan To Purchase Ferrari)
A portion of the funds was allegedly money laundered by writing checks from the companies receiving PPP loans to some of the defendants and their family members, which was then cashed at a cash checking company Azeemuddin owned, according to the indictment. This included 1,100 checks totaling more than $3 million.
Federal agents seized a Porsche and a Lamborghini that were allegedly purchased with the fraudulent loan money, the DOJ stated. A total of 45 seizure warrants were executed in the investigation. (RELATED: Gun Control Groups Receive Taxpayer Protection Funds To Fund Antigun Candidates)
PPP loans were distributed by the Small Business Administration under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to provide financial support during the height of the COVID-19 lockdown.