SCRANTON- The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that Nazim Hassam, age 70, of Bartonsville, Pennsylvania, was sentenced yesterday by United States District Court Judge Malachy E. Mannion to 18 months in prison for money laundering stemming from an illegal transaction conducted with funds obtained through a fraudulent pandemic assistance loan application.
According to United States Attorney John C. Gurganus, in April and June of 2020, Hassam applied for and received two loans under the federal Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) while making false statements on the applications. In 2019, Hassam was indicted along with two businesses he co-owns, the Pocono Plaza Inn and Om Sri Sai, Inc., on felony charges related to sex trafficking and drug trafficking. But when asked on the loan applications whether he or the companies applying for the loans were under indictment, Hassam falsely answered, “No.” Hassam fraudulently obtained one loan for each of the two corporate entities, together totaling $89,308. Hassam then conducted unlawful monetary transactions with the bulk of those funds. Specifically related to the count to which Hassam pleaded guilty, Hassam obtained $61,000 as a PPP loan for Om Sri Sai, Inc., a company that owns and operates a hotel in Bartonsville, Pennsylvania, and then transferred the funds from the corporation’s bank account to pay down a personal line of credit he held in his own name. As part of the plea agreement with the Government, Hassam admitted that, in addition to the money laundering charge to which he pleaded guilty, he also committed the underlying fraud offenses. Hassam paid both loans back to the issuing banks, with interest, after he learned of the investigation but before sentencing.
Hassam’s sentence was enhanced because he committed this crime while on pretrial release in the drug and sex trafficking case. Hassam was previously convicted in that case after a trial and sentenced to 60 months in prison, along with a $150,000 fine. Judge Mannion ordered that 12 months out of the 18-month sentence in this case will run concurrently with the earlier sentence, and 6 months will run consecutively, as required by statute.
The case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean A. Camoni prosecuted 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.
This prosecution is also part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.
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