Atlanta-based financial advisor sentenced for COVID-relief fraud scheme
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Georgia
ATLANTA - Paul Kwak has been sentenced for a multi-million-dollar fraud scheme related to a COVID relief program. Three co-conspirators were previously sentenced to prison as well.
“When the government stepped in to help the millions of Americans suffering economically during the pandemic, some sought an opportunity to exploit the system and enrich themselves,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan. “Kwak not only submitted his own fraudulent applications, but he recruited others to his scheme, resulting in millions of dollars of fraudulent applications to the SBA’s relief program.”
“Profiteering off federal government relief programs intended to support American small businesses is inexcusable,” said SBA OIG’s Eastern Region Special Agent in Charge Amaleka McCall-Brathwaite. “This sentencing is further evidence that greed has no place in SBA programs. I want to thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners for their dedication and commitment to seeing justice served.”
“Not only did Kwak defraud the government by applying for relief funds for companies that did not exist, but he also recruited and taught others how to do the same,” said Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “Let this sentence be a message that the FBI will continue to hold accountable anyone who abuses taxpayer dollars and diverts them from people that actually need them.”
According to U.S. Attorney Buchanan, the charges and other information presented in court: Paul Kwak conspired with others to submit millions of dollars of fraudulent EIDL applications in the names of shell companies that had no employees and conducted no business activities.
The EIDL program is an emergency relief program run by the Small Business Administration (SBA) that provided millions of Americans with much needed economic relief during the COVID-19 pandemic. An EIDL application must provide, among other information, the amount of revenue the business generated in the 12 months prior to the application and the number of employees. The applicant must certify that the information is correct and that he or she is legally eligible to apply for an EIDL.
Kwak filed fraudulent EIDL applications and recruited and taught others to file fraudulent applications, totaling over $2 million. Kwak posted related videos on his YouTube channel, where he provided financial and investment advice before the pandemic. In a May 2020 video titled “EIDL, disaster assistance you don’t have to pay back,” Kwak explained, in Korean, that applicants could receive tens of thousands of dollars in assistance without collateral or a co-signor, using only the applicant’s electronic signature. One of his clients, according to Kwak, had recently received $150,000 in EIDL proceeds.
Kwak conspired with others, including Joosoo Choi-Bang, Jon Sun Hun, and Sook Hee Kim, each of whom previously pleaded guilty and were sentenced. Ultimately, the SBA paid over $1 million as a result of the fraudulent applications. Kwak has agreed to forfeit three homes and a Mercedes GLS 580 purchased with fraud proceeds. He has also agreed to forfeit over $1.6 million from multiple bank accounts associated with the fraud.
Paul Kwak, 65, of Braselton, Georgia, was sentenced to three years, four months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $1,198,300. Kwak was convicted of these charges on June 20, 2023, after he pleaded guilty.
Choi-Bang was sentenced to one year, six months in prison to be followed by one year of supervised release. Huh and Kim were sentenced to two years in prison to be followed by one year of supervised release.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Small Business Administration, Office of Inspector General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Huber 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.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.
Updated October 13, 2023