Dearborn Heights Man Pleads Guilty in Pandemic Loan Fraud Scheme
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Michigan
DETROIT - A Dearborn Heights resident pleaded guilty today to fraudulently obtaining approximately $1,082,600 in loans intended to help small businesses stay afloat during the Covid-19 pandemic. He further admitted to wiring a portion of the fraud proceeds to Turkey for the purchase of a condominium in Beirut, Lebanon, United States Attorney Dawn N. Ison announced today.
Joining in the announcement was Cheyvoryea Gibson, Special Agent in Charge of the Detroit Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Wahid Makki, 61, entered pleas of guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of international money laundering before United States District Judge Nancy G. Edmunds. The guilty pleas arose out of Makki’s’ participation in a scheme to obtain loans authorized by the CARES Act designed to assist small businesses experiencing financial disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the plea documents, the loan applications described above contained numerous material misrepresentations and false statements. Makki’s business entities were shells that existed on paper only; they had no revenue, employees, or ongoing operations of any sort. However, Makki’s applications represented that each of these entities had between three and 15 employees. The average monthly payroll amounts included in the applications were fictitious, as were representations about how the money would be spent.
In addition, Makki authorized the submission of electronic applications for pandemic relief loans in the names of various business entities Makki purported to own and control. Between April 2020 and April 2021, Makki caused the submission of 17 loan applications seeking funds pursuant to the Small Business Administration’s “Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program” (EIDL), which was a program that provided low-interest financing to businesses adversely affected by the pandemic.
Makki received approximately 1,082,600 in proceeds from the 10 loans that were actually funded as part of his scheme. Makki further admitted that he wired a portion of the loan proceeds to purchase a “sea view condo” in Beirut, Lebanon.
“This defendant stole money intended to keep our economy functioning and our workers employed during a national crisis, and then spent his ill-gotten gains on a luxury property overseas,” said U.S. Attorney Ison. Today’s guilty plea is an important step in holding Mr. Makki accountable for his crimes.”
“While many people across the nation were struggling from the financial challenges caused by COVID-19, Mr. Makki used it as an opportunity to exploit pandemic relief programs for his own gain,” said Cheyvoryea Gibson, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Michigan. “The FBI is committed to disrupting schemes that defraud government-sponsored assistance programs by working with our committed law enforcement partners. We would like to express our gratitude to them for their assistance in this case."
Sentencing is set for February 6, 2024 before Judge Edmunds.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Philip A. Ross. The investigation was conducted by the FBI.
Updated October 31, 2023