Three Charged in Multi-Million Dollar Pandemic Assistance Fraud Scheme
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Michigan
DETROIT - Three Macomb County residents were charged for their alleged roles in a multi-million-dollar Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) fraud scheme, announced United States Attorney Dawn N. Ison.
Joining in the announcement were Special Agent in Charge James A. Tarasca, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Special Agent in Charge Angie M. Salazar, United States Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations and Julia Dale, Director, Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency.
Rita Shaba, 37, of Macomb and Samer Kammo, 43 of Shelby Township were charged in an indictment with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud; wire fraud; bank fraud; false statements in connection with a bank loan; and, aggravated identity theft.
Christina Anasi, 33, of Shelby, was charged in a related criminal complaint with the same offenses, as well as money laundering.
According to the indictment and complaint, the defendants caused fraudulent PPP applications to be submitted for several business entities. Those applications are alleged to have misrepresented payroll information for the business entities and falsely certified that PPP loan funds would be used for permissible business-related purposes. The defendants are also alleged to have caused fictitious payroll, health insurance, bank, and tax records to be submitted in connection with the PPP loan applications.
According to court records, the defendants received over $3 million in fraudulent PPP loan funds. To date, law enforcement has seized and recovered over $2.1 million of those funds.
Anasi is also alleged to have engaged in unemployment insurance fraud.
The Paycheck Protection Program was created by Congress to provide assistance to businesses harmed by the economic dislocations caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
U.S. Attorney Ison stated, “If you stole government funds designed to help other Americans make it through the global pandemic, my office—along with our law enforcement partners—is coming for you.”
“These defendants are charged with defrauding American taxpayers and stealing from businesses that were in desperate need of support during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said James A. Tarasca, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Michigan. “The FBI and are law enforcement partners remain committed to finding people who commit fraud and holding them accountable for their crimes.”
“The pandemic took a toll on our communities and local businesses, yet some saw that suffering as an opportunity to steal from their fellow citizens,” said HSI Detroit Special Agent in Charge Angie M. Salazar. “Our agents will continue to investigate instances of PPP fraud and help hold offenders accountable to the people we serve.”
“The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency’s Investigations Division has a long, successful record of identifying bad actors who steal money from hard-working Michiganders and Michigan businesses,” said UIA Director Julia Dale. “The close partnership that we have with federal law enforcement ensures fraudsters receive the justice they rightly deserve for violating the integrity of the state’s unemployment insurance program.”
The defendants face up to twenty years in prison based on the wire fraud and wire fraud conspiracy charges, and they face a maximum of thirty years in prison on the bank fraud and bank fraud conspiracy charges. Each of the defendants face consecutive two-year prison sentences for aggravated identity theft.
An indictment and a complaint are both only charges and are not evidence of guilt. Trial cannot be held on felony charges in a complaint. When the investigation is completed, a determination will be made whether to seek a felony indictment on the charges brought in the complaint. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations. The Unemployment Insurance Agency, Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity has also provided valuable assistance.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Andrew J. Yahkind. Related forfeiture matters are being handled by Assistant United States Attorney Michael El-Zein.
Updated June 1, 2023