Federal Grand Jury Returns Charges for Covid-19 Fraud
DENVER – The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado announces Ikponmwosa Pero Erhinmwinrose has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft. The defendant made his initial appearance in front of U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge N. Reid Neureiter on July 17, 2023. Three other defendants—Victor Henshaw Tobore, Nyerhovwo Presley Agbure, and Oreoluwa Abdul-Jabbar Elegba—were indicted in the same case and made their initial appearances in federal court earlier in July 2023.
According to the information contained in the indictment, Erhinmwinrose and his co-conspirators—referred to as the Fraud Ring—fraudulently obtained more than $7,700,000 in loans and grants under names other than their own from programs authorized by Congress in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The CARES Act was intended to provide emergency financial assistance for millions of American small businesses suffering economic harm caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. These programs included the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program. The United States Small Business Administration (SBA) directly paid EIDLs and grants (EIDGs) to eligible small businesses experiencing substantial financial disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic. PPP loan applications were processed by participating lenders. Lenders funded PPP loans using their own funds, which were guaranteed by the SBA.
The alleged conspiracy involved Erhinmwinrose and other Fraud Ring participants—using the names and identifying information of others—registering fraudulent corporate entities with state governments, obtaining fraudulent employer tax identification numbers from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), creating fraudulent bank accounts at financial institutions, falsifying payroll and employment data, and fabricating tax and bank documents. These actions were taken to mislead lenders so that Fraud Ring participants could then fraudulently obtain loans and grants while hiding their own involvement in the conspiracy and scheme to defraud. After PPP and EIDL fraud funds—as well as fraudulently obtained federal tax refunds from the IRS and benefits from unemployment programs run by states including Colorado, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and Ohio—were deposited in fraudulent bank accounts, the indictment further alleges that Fraud Ring participants conspired to launder the money.
This case is being investigated by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration; the SBA Office of the Inspector General, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Office of the Inspector General, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Craig Fansler.
The charges contained in the indictment are allegations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
CASE NUMBER: 23-cr-00300-CNS
Updated July 19, 2023