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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Massachusetts

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Worcester Man Pleads Guilty to Fraud and Identity Theft Charges Related to COVID-19 Pandemic

BOSTON – A Worcester man pleaded guilty today to fraudulently applying for business loans under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and then spending the money on personal expenses.

Richard Oworae, 59, pleaded guilty to three counts of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. U.S. District Court Judge Timothy S. Hillman scheduled sentencing for Jan. 12, 2022. Oworae was arrested and charged on Jan. 21, 2021

Between late July 2020 and late August 2020, Oworae schemed to defraud the Small Business Administration (SBA) by submitting applications through SBA’s website for at least three Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) totaling approximately $194,700. Oworae fraudulently applied for EIDL, provided false statements on the loan applications using the stolen personal identification information of another person and misappropriated the loan funds for personal use. Oworae also created fictitious companies for the purpose of fraudulently applying for EIDL, and spent funds obtained from that fraud on unauthorized personal expenses and to make money transfers through a money-remitter business based in Tanzania to numerous individuals in Ghana.  

EIDL funds were available to eligible individuals and businesses pursuant to the CARES Act. The provisions of the CARES Act allowed for the SBA to offer EIDL funding to business owners negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The provisions of the EIDL program require that loan proceeds only be used on certain permissible business expenses, which can include payment of fixed business debts, payroll, accounts payable, and other business-related expenses that could have been paid had the COVID-19 disaster not occurred.

The charges of wire fraud provide for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $1 million or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater. The charge of aggravated identity theft provides for a mandatory sentence of two years in prison, to be served consecutively to any sentence imposed for the wire fraud counts, up to one year of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based on the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Acting United States Attorney Nathaniel R. Mendell; Joshua McCallister, Acting Inspector in Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; and Matthew Modafferi, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorney Danial Bennett of Mendell’s Worcester Branch Office is prosecuting the case.

On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. The Task Force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud by, among other methods, augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts. For more information on the Department’s response to the pandemic, please visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.

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 (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.

Topic(s): 
Coronavirus
Financial Fraud
Identity Theft
Component(s): 
Updated September 15, 2021