US Sentences 7 Behind $20Mln COVID-19 Relief Fraud - Justice Dept.

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US Sentences 7 Behind $20Mln COVID-19 Relief Fraud - Justice Dept.

WASHINGTON (UrduPoint News / Sputnik - 17th November, 2021) Seven members of a California-based fraud ring who used fake identities to obtain $20 million from two US COVID-19 relief programs have been sentenced, the Justice Department said on Tuesday.

"According to court documents and evidence presented at a June 2021 trial, the defendants used dozens of fake, stolen, or synthetic identities including Names belonging to elderly or deceased people and foreign exchange students who briefly visited the United States years ago and never returned to submit fraudulent applications for approximately 150 PPP and EIDL loans," the release said.

PPP, or Paycheck Protection Program loans are earmarked for business to continue paying employees during the pandemic, while EIDI, or Economic Injury Disaster Loans, are intended to keep small business operating.

On November 15, US District Court Judge Stephen Wilson sentenced Richard Ayvazyan, to 17 years in prison; Marietta Terabelian to six years; and Artur Ayvazyan, to five years, according to the release.

The court previously sentenced Manuk Grigoryan to six years; Edvard Paronyan to 30 months; Vahe Dadyan to one year and one day; and Arman Hayrapetyan to 10 months of probation. Tamara Dadyan is scheduled to be sentenced on December 6, the release said.

In support of the fraudulent loan applications, the defendants also submitted fictitious documents to lenders and the Small Business Administration (SBA), including fake identity documents, tax documents, and payroll records, the release added.

The defendants then used the fraudulently obtained funds as down payments on luxury homes, and to buy gold coins, diamonds, jewelry, luxury watches, fine imported furnishings, designer handbags, clothing, and a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, according to the release.