Five Texas men pleaded guilty today to their participation in a scheme to fraudulently obtain and launder millions of dollars in forgivable Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans that the Small Business Administration (SBA) guaranteed under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
According to court documents, Muhammad Anis, 55, Nishant Patel, 41, Harjeet Singh, 49, all of Houston, and Arham Uddin, 27, and Ammas Uddin, 30, both of Richmond, engaged in a conspiracy to defraud the SBA and certain SBA-approved PPP lenders by submitting false and fraudulent PPP loan applications. All five defendants also assisted in laundering the fraudulently obtained PPP loan funds by supplying co-conspirators with blank, endorsed checks, which were made payable to people posing as employees of the companies that received the PPP loan, but who were in fact not employees. These fake paychecks were then cashed at check cashing stores that other members of the conspiracy controlled.
As part of the scheme, Anis obtained a false and fraudulent PPP loan in the amount of approximately $483,333; Patel obtained a false and fraudulent PPP loan in the amount of approximately $474,993; Singh obtained two false and fraudulent PPP loans for a total of approximately $937,379; Arham Uddin obtained a false and fraudulent PPP loan in the amount of approximately $491,664; and Ammas Uddin obtained a false and fraudulent PPP loan in the amount of approximately $498,415.
Anis, Patel, Singh, Arham Uddin, and Ammas Uddin each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. They are scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 4, 2024, and each face a total maximum penalty of five years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
In addition to these five defendants, one other individual was convicted at trial for his involvement in the scheme, and 15 other individuals have pleaded guilty to their involvement in the loan fraud scheme.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani for the Southern District of Texas, Special Agent in Charge Brady Ipock of the SBA Office of Inspector General (SBA-OIG) Central Region, Special Agent in Charge Catherine Huber of the Federal Housing Finance Agency Office of Inspector General (FHFA-OIG), Special Agent in Charge Mark B. Dawson of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Houston, Special Agent in Charge Anand Ramlall of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Office of Inspector General (FDIC-OIG) Dallas Region, and Special Agent in Charge Gary Smith of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) made the announcement.
The SBA-OIG, FHFA-OIG, HSI, FDIC-OIG, and TIGTA are investigating the case.
Trial Attorneys Louis Manzo, Della Sentilles, Kate McCarthy, and Spencer Ryan of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Rodolfo Ramirez and Kristine Rollinson for the Southern District of Texas are prosecuting the cases.
Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.
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