Eastern District of Texas Announces Multi-Year Investigation into Transnational Cryptocurrency Money Laundering Networks
TEXARKANA, Texas – A Liberty County, Texas, man and woman have been indicted for filing hundreds of fraudulent Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) applications with the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in the Eastern District of Texas, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Nicholas J. Ganjei today.
Clifton Pape, 45, and Sally Jung, 58, both of Cleveland, Texas, allegedly operated a COVID relief fraud scheme known as “My Buddy Loans,” that garnered them more than $700,000 in fraud proceeds and resulted in at least $1.3 million in loss to the United States. Pape and Jung are charged by way of a federal indictment that charges violations of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1349 and 2326, conspiracy to commit telemarketing wire fraud victimizing ten or more persons over the age of fifty-five; 18 U.S.C. § 1343, wire fraud; and 18 U.S.C. §§ 1028A and 2, aggravated identity theft and aiding and abetting.
“We believe this investigation—to date—involves the single largest number of individual fraudulent EIDL applications associated with the CARES Act,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Nicholas Ganjei. “We are asking those with information about the My Buddy Loan fraud scheme, including those who believe they may be victims, to call the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or file a complaint using the NCDF Web Complaint Form at https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.”
“This telemarketing scheme exploited those seeking assistance during the COVID pandemic, including many who were over the age of 55,” said SBA OIG’s Central Region Special Agent in Charge Sharon Johnson. “We are asking members of the press and the community to encourage those victimized by this fraud scheme—including hundreds of residents in Texas and across the country—to file a complaint with the NCDF.”
“This case demonstrates the investigative capabilities of the United State Secret Service and should service as a strong deterrent to anyone considering taking part in a similar scam,” said William Mack, Resident Special Agent in Charge of the Secret Service Tyler Texas Resident Office. “This investigation highlights our outstanding partnership with the SBA OIG’s Central Region and we will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to disrupt criminal groups who target and victimize our communities. We thank members of the public and the banking community who have been vigilant, and we encourage them to continue reporting any suspicious activity involving COVID relief.”
According to court documents filed in U.S. District Court in Texarkana, Pape and Jung operated the telemarketing scheme under the name My Buddy Loans. In exchange for a fee, My Buddy Loans took personal identifying information from victims and promised to file an application for an agricultural grant, which they said was available to those who owned a few acres of land. Instead, Pape and Jung actually filed fraudulent EIDL applications with the SBA that contained the victims’ personal identification information.
Pape and Jung used Square’s credit and debit card processing service to charge third parties the fee. Pape and Jung completed at least 700 successful charges, obtaining at least $700,000 in fees. Pape and Jung then transferred the proceeds of the fraud scheme into a bank account they controlled. On one occasion, Pape used the fraud proceeds to pay a traffic ticket. On another occasion, Pape and Jung used more than $3600 from the fraud scheme to pay for a stay at a resort in San Antonio, Texas. A picture from that stay shows Pape and Jung celebrating over sparkling wine. Pursuant to a seizure warrant, agents seized the $505,535.04 in fraud proceeds remaining in the account.
The CARES Act is a federal law enacted in March 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 or EIDL advances and low-interest loans to small businesses to meet financial obligations and operating expenses that could have been met had the disaster not occurred. Under the EIDL program applicants were eligible for a forgivable advance of up to $10,000 if the applicant had ten or more employees.
A federal indictment is merely an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Under federal statutes, Pape and Jung face up to 168 years in federal prison and a $6,000,000 fine at sentencing. The statutory sentence prescribed by Congress is provided here for information purposes, as the sentencing will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.
This case is being investigated by the U.S. Secret Service and the SBA Office of Inspector General. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan R. Hornok.