6 Houston-area men indicted in scheme that used more than 80 fraudulent loan applications to obtain $ 16 million in COVID relief funds, federal government says
HOUSTON – Seven people in two states have been charged in a scheme that used more than 80 fraudulent loan applications to secure $ 16 million in repayable loans from the Paycheck Protection Program guaranteed by the Small Business Administration in under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, according to federal prosecutors.
Amir Aqeel, 52, and Pardeep Basra, 51, both of Houston; Rifat Bajwa, 51, from Richmond; Mayer Misak, 40, of Cypress; Mauricio Navia, 41, from Katy; and Richard Reuth, 57, of Spring, are scheduled to appear for the first time Wednesday before Federal Judge Andrew M. Edison.
Prosecutors said the six suspects were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud. The indictment also charges Aqeel with three counts of money laundering.
Siddiq Azeemuddin, 41, of Naperville, Illinois, was also named in the Houston indictment. He also faces charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud and money laundering, prosecutors said. Azeemuddin appeared before Federal Judge Heather K. McShain of the Northern District of Illinois on Tuesday.
Prosecutors said everyone involved conspired to submit fraudulent PPP loan applications by falsifying the number of employees and average monthly salary expenses of the applicant companies. Prosecutors also said they conspired to submit fraudulent bank statements or fake federal tax forms.
Prosecutors said several of the PPP loan applications were submitted on behalf of companies controlled by the defendants, while other loan applications were submitted on behalf of entities owned by third parties. In return, several of the defendants received large bribes, prosecutors said.
According to a press release, “The indictment further alleges that the defendants laundered some of the fraudulent proceeds by writing checks from companies that received PPP loans to bogus employees. Those who received checks included some of the defendants and their relatives, according to the charges. The fake paychecks were then allegedly cashed at Fascare International Inc. dba Almeda Discount Store – a cash control company owned by Azeemuddin.
Prosecutors said more than 1,100 fake paychecks, totaling more than $ 3 million, were cashed at Azeemuddin’s business. Federal agents have served 45 warrants in connection with the case, prosecutors said. A Porsche and a Lamborghini bought with illegal funds were also seized, prosecutors said.
When KPRC 2 showed up at the store at 10150 Almeda-Genoa Road, an employee who said he was a new employee said he was shocked to hear the news. He called his manager and 30 minutes later he closed the store by putting a padlock on the front door.
This is an ongoing investigation. If you have any information, contact the US Department of Homeland Security at 1-866-DHS-ICE.
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