Houston, Texas: Pardeep Basra, a 54-year-old Indian-origin man, has received a prison sentence of three years and five months for his involvement in a significant COVID-19 relief fraud scheme in the United States. Alongside Basra, six of his co-conspirators were also sentenced to varying lengths of imprisonment.
The ringleader of this fraudulent operation, Amir Aqeel, has been handed a 15-year prison sentence for his role in orchestrating the scam.
This fraudulent ring managed to secure over $20 million in forgivable Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, which were guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
Amir Aqeel and his associates misappropriated these funds for personal gain, indulging in extravagant purchases such as houses, a Porsche, and even a Lamborghini. All of this was done at the expense of programs designed to aid those adversely affected by the pandemic.
Pardeep Basra and his co-conspirators engaged in the submission of more than 75 fraudulent PPP loan applications during 2020. Their fraudulent activities included falsifying employee counts and inflating the average monthly payroll expenses of the businesses seeking loans. Additionally, they submitted fake bank records and federal tax forms to support their applications.
Several members of the group received substantial kickbacks in exchange for their assistance with these fraudulent loan applications.
The conspirators further attempted to launder illicit proceeds by issuing checks from companies that had received PPP loans to fictitious employees. Over 1,100 counterfeit paychecks, amounting to over $3 million in fraudulent PPP loan proceeds, were cashed as a result of these actions.
These criminal activities took place while the country was grappling with the unprecedented challenges posed by the global health crisis. The emergency fund meant to support struggling businesses and employees was exploited by these individuals for their personal gain.
Special Agent in Charge Mark Dawson, from Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Houston, emphasized the magnitude of their actions. He stated, “While the rest of our country was reeling from the effects of an unprecedented global health crisis, these individuals conspired to fraudulently obtain and launder millions of taxpayer dollars.”
Federal agents conducted 45 seizure warrants in connection with the case. They successfully seized a residence, a Porsche, and a Lamborghini, all of which had been purchased using illegally obtained funds.
In addition to Pardeep Basra, four other individuals involved in the loan fraud scheme were sentenced. Khalid Abbas and Richard Reuth received two and a half years in prison, while Rifat Bajwa and Siddiq Azeemuddin were sentenced to three years and two years in prison, respectively.
This case underscores the seriousness with which authorities are treating COVID-19 relief fund fraud, emphasizing their commitment to safeguarding taxpayer dollars during times of crisis.
Pardeep Basra and his co-conspirators were charged with fraudulently obtaining over $20 million in forgivable Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans under the CARES Act, meant to provide economic relief during the COVID-19 pandemic. They submitted numerous fraudulent loan applications, falsifying information and supporting documents.
Pardeep Basra received a prison sentence of three years and five months, while the ringleader, Amir Aqeel, was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Other co-conspirators received prison sentences ranging from two to three years.
Federal agents executed 45 seizure warrants and successfully seized assets, including a residence, a Porsche, and a Lamborghini, which had been purchased using fraudulently obtained funds. This underscores the seriousness with which authorities are addressing COVID-19 relief fund fraud.