Texas Man Sentenced for $24 Million COVID-19 Relief Fraud Scheme
A Texas man was sentenced today to more than 11 years in prison for wire-fraud and money-laundering offenses in connection with his fraudulent scheme to obtain approximately $24.8 million in forgivable Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans.
Dinesh Sah, 55, of Coppell, pleaded guilty on March 24, 2021. According to court documents, Sah submitted 15 fraudulent applications, filed under the names of various purported businesses that he owned or controlled, to eight different lenders seeking approximately $24.8 million in PPP loans. Sah claimed that these businesses had numerous employees and hundreds of thousands of dollars in payroll expenses when, in fact, no business had employees or paid wages consistent with the amounts claimed in the PPP applications. Sah further submitted fraudulent documentation in support of his applications, including fabricated federal tax filings and bank statements for the purported businesses, and falsely listed other persons as the authorized representatives of certain of these businesses without the authority to use their identifying information on the applications.
“Today’s sentence serves as a clear reminder that individuals who exploit COVID-relief programs to enrich themselves will be held accountable under the law,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “The Department of Justice and its law enforcement partners remain committed to aggressively pursuing and bringing to justice those who steal federal funds intended to help legitimate small businesses.”
“Congress passed the Paycheck Protection Program to help struggling businesses stay afloat, not to fund faux entrepreneurs’ luxury lifestyles,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Prerak Shah for the Northern District of Texas. “Even as COVID-19 devastated companies around the nation, Mr. Sah sapped millions of dollars from the relief fund that could have helped them. He exploited the pandemic for personal gain, and we are proud to hold him accountable.”
“This sentencing serves as a deterrent to all who would attempt to commit fraud against any of the COVID-19 relief programs,” said Special Agent in Charge Christopher J. Altemus Jr. of the IRS–Criminal Investigation Dallas Field Office. “These programs are here to help during a pandemic, not for fraudsters like Sah to take advantage of for their own personal gain.”
“The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration aggressively pursues those who endeavor to defraud programs afforded to the American people under the CARES Act,” said J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). “We appreciate the efforts of the Department of Justice and our law enforcement partners in this effort.”
Based upon his false statements and fabricated documents, Sah received over $17 million in PPP loan funds and diverted the proceeds for his personal benefit, using them to purchase multiple homes in Texas, pay off the mortgages on other homes in California and buy a fleet of luxury cars, including a Bentley convertible, Corvette Stingray and Porsche Macan. Sah also sent millions of dollars in PPP proceeds in international money transfers. As part of his guilty plea, Sah agreed to forfeit, among other property, eight homes, six luxury vehicles and more than $9 million in fraudulent proceeds that the government has seized to date.
In addition to the prison sentence, Sah was ordered to pay $17,284,649.79 in restitution.
The Dallas Field Offices of the FDIC-OIG, IRS-Criminal Investigation and U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration investigated the case.
Assistant Deputy Chief Anna G. Kaminska of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Section Chief Katherine Miller of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas prosecuted the case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Erica Hilliard and Dimitri Rocha handled the asset-forfeiture component of the case.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act is a federal law enacted on March 29, 2020, designed to provide emergency financial assistance to the millions of Americans who are suffering the economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. One source of relief provided by the CARES Act was the authorization of up to $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses for job retention and certain other expenses, through the PPP. In April 2020, Congress authorized over $300 billion in additional PPP funding.
The PPP allows qualifying small businesses and other organizations to receive loans with a maturity of two years and an interest rate of 1%. PPP loan proceeds must be used by businesses on payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities. The PPP allows the interest and principal on the PPP loan to be forgiven if the business spends the loan proceeds on these expense items within a designated period of time after receiving the proceeds and uses at least a certain percentage of the PPP loan proceeds on payroll expenses.
The Fraud Section leads the Department of Justice’s prosecution of fraud schemes that exploit the CARES Act. In the months since the CARES Act was passed, Fraud Section attorneys have prosecuted more than 100 defendants in more than 70 criminal cases. The Fraud Section has also seized more than $65 million in cash proceeds derived from fraudulently obtained PPP funds, as well as numerous real-estate properties and luxury items purchased with such proceeds. More information can be found at: https://www.justice.gov/criminal-fraud/cares-act-fraud.
Anyone with general information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.