L.A. Man Sentenced to More Than 24 Years in Prison for $5.5 Million COVID Jobless Benefits Scam, Tax Fraud and Drug Trafficking
LOS ANGELES – A Ventura County man who schemed with an Orange County man to illegally acquire disaster relief funds was sentenced today to 51 months in federal prison for fraudulently obtaining more than $1 million in loans intended to help businesses weather the COVID-19 pandemic’s economic fallout.
Manuel Asadurian, 66, of Simi Valley, was sentenced by United States District Judge Dale S. Fischer, who also ordered him to pay $1,071,222 in restitution.
Asadurian pleaded guilty in October 2022 to one count of wire fraud affecting a financial institution.
From April 2020 to January 2021, Asadurian and an accomplice, Jeffrey Scott Hedges, 51, of Irvine, schemed to fraudulently obtain federal disaster relief funds distributed through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) programs that Congress intended to help businesses during the pandemic.
Asadurian lied to the United States Small Business Administration and federally insured financial institutions on a total of 12 PPP and EIDL loan applications, which were submitted on behalf of Asadurian-controlled businesses, including LTL Enterprises LLC, Redline Performance LLC, and Diamond A Motorsports. Hedges submitted 18 fraudulent PPP and EIDL applications on behalf of companies he controlled, including West Coast Chassis, WCC Pro Touring, Von Schoff Apparel, and Hedges Corvette.
The false information submitted by Asadurian and Hedges included the number of employees to whom the companies had paid wages, the amount of payroll expenses for the companies, and false certifications that the loans would be used for permissible business purposes. In support of the bogus applications, Asadurian and Hedges submitted false tax documents, payroll records and bank records that fraudulently inflated the number of employees and amount of payroll expenses and gross receipts associated with the companies.
Once the PPP and EIDL loan applications were approved, they were deposited in bank accounts Asadurian and Hedges controlled. Asadurian and Hedges then used the fraudulently obtained loans for their personal benefit, including making mortgage payments on a personal residence, paying living expenses and medical expenses, and purchasing luxury vehicles.
In total, Asadurian sought approximately $1,620,122 in PPP and EIDL loans and fraudulently obtained approximately $1,071,222 related to those loans.
In a related case, Hedges pleaded guilty in August 2022 to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud affecting a financial institution and one count of aggravated identity theft for his submission of fraudulent PPP and EIDL applications that sought approximately $5,288,476. Hedges received approximately $2,087,701 of those loan funds. On January 30, Judge Fischer sentenced Hedges to a term of seven years in federal prison and ordered him to pay $2,087,701 in restitution.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Office of Inspector General; the Federal Reserve Board Office of Inspector General; the FBI; IRS Criminal Investigation; Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration; and the Small Business Administration investigated these matters.
Assistant United States Attorney Scott Paetty of the Major Frauds Section prosecuted these 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 Hotline at (866) 720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.
Public Information Officer