Baltimore, Maryland – Ahmed Sary, age 45, of Baltimore, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to commit wire fraud affecting financial institutions, relating to the submission of more than $17.9 million in fraudulent CARES Act loan applications. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act was a federal law enacted in March 2020 to provide emergency financial assistance to Americans suffering from the economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek L. Barron; Special Agent in Charge Thomas J. Sobocinski of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office; Special Agent in Charge Amaleka McCall-Brathwaite of the Small Business Administration Office of Inspector General, Eastern Region; and Chief Robert McCullough of the Baltimore County Police Department.
“Sary will now pay the price for living luxurious from stolen pandemic relief funds that others needed to keep a business open or to keep a roof over their heads,” said United States Attorney Erek L. Barron.
Financial assistance offered through the CARES Act included forgivable loans to small businesses for job retention and certain other expenses, through the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”), administered through the Small Business Administration (“SBA”), and SBA-approved lenders. The SBA also offered an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (“EIDL”) and/or an EIDL advance to help businesses meet their financial obligations. An EIDL advance did not have to be repaid, and small businesses could receive an advance, even if they were not approved for an EIDL loan. The maximum advance amount was $10,000.
According to the plea agreement, from April 2020 through January 2022, Sary and his co-conspirators prepared false and fraudulent PPP loan and EIDL applications for a number of borrowers in exchange for a kickback of typically ranging from 20 percent to 30 percent of the loan amount. The fraudulent PPP and EIDL loan applications prepared by Sary, and his co-conspirators grossly inflated the purported businesses’ number of employees, monthly payroll costs, and revenue numbers, including for businesses that didn’t exist in any legitimate capacity
As detailed in the statement of facts, Sary and his co-conspirators filed 85 false and fraudulent PPP loan applications seeking a total of over $14,807,609.37 and 57 false and fraudulent EIDL applications seeking a total of over $3,093,670.50. All the loans were ultimately funded. After the loan funds were received, the recipient would typically provide Sary multiple, sometimes up to seven, checks that were signed by the loan recipient and that listed a payment amount and date but that left the payee name blank. Sary would then write a payee name on each of those checks and deposit them.
In connection with some of the fraudulently obtained PPP loans for purported businesses, Sary also assisted the loan recipients with setting up payroll services with Payroll Processor 1 to make it appear that the fraudulently obtained PPP loan funds were being used for permissible purposes when they, in fact, were not. The payroll services also facilitated the creation of documentation that could be used to substantiate a request for each of the PPP loans to be forgiven.
In addition to the loan kickback fees, Sary received $959,559 in PPP/EIDL funds for purported businesses he controlled, including a purported financial services business, a purported meatpacking business, a purported clothing company and a purported talent agency. In fact, none of these businesses existed in any legitimate capacity. Sary admitted that he used the fraudulently obtained funds to travel to Dubai and Egypt on multiple occasions, to stay at luxury hotels, including the Four Seasons, while there, to purchase property in Egypt and to, among other things, open a beachfront restaurant in Alexandria, Egypt called Sary’s Kitchen.
Sary and the government have agreed that, if the Court accepts the plea agreement, Sary will be sentenced to between 60 months and 114 months in federal prison. U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett has scheduled sentencing for February 1, 2024 at 11:00 a.m.
The District of Maryland Strike Force is one of five strike forces established throughout the United States by the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate and prosecute COVID-19 fraud, including fraud relating to the CARES Act. The CARES Act was designed to provide emergency financial assistance to Americans suffering the economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The strike forces focus on large-scale, multi-state pandemic relief fraud perpetrated by criminal organizations and transnational actors. The strike forces are interagency law enforcement efforts, using prosecutor-led and data analyst-driven teams designed to identify and bring to justice those who stole pandemic relief funds.
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.
United States Attorney Erek L. Barron commended the FBI, the SBA-OIG and the Baltimore County Police Department for their work in the investigation. Mr. Barron thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul A. Riley, who is prosecuting the case. He also recognized the assistance of the Maryland COVID-19 Strike Force Paralegal Specialist Joanna B.N. Huber.
For more information on the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office, its priorities, and resources available to help the community, please visit www.justice.gov/usao/md.
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