Second Man Sentenced to Federal Prison in Paycheck Protection Program Fraud Scheme
Laundered Over $900,000 in Fraudulent Loan Proceeds
A Virginia man who laundered over $900,000 in fraudulently obtained Paycheck Protection Program loan proceeds was sentenced on July 20, 2022, to more than three years in federal prison. Benjamin Sakyi, age 31, from Dumfries, Virginia, originally from Accra, Ghana, received the prison term after a February 8, 2022 guilty plea to one count of money laundering conspiracy.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act is a federal law enacted in late March 2020 that provided emergency financial assistance, including Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) and Economic Injury Disaster Loan (“EIDL”) funds, to the millions of Americans who were suffering the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Evidence at Sakyi’s sentencing and other hearings showed that Sakyi received over $900,000 in fraudulently obtained CARES Act funds at three different financial institutions in the names of two Virginia corporations, Blue Flight Logistics LLC and NKB Enterprise LLC. Sakyi then transferred the funds elsewhere. Before laundering the CARES Act funds, multiple financial institutions had closed Sakyi’s accounts over the years due to his banking activity, which included over $3.5 million in incoming and outgoing financial transactions.
Sakyi received the CARES Act funds from a Northwest Iowa man, Donald Franklin Trosin. Over 20 fraudulent PPP and EIDL loan applications were submitted to the Small Business Administration in the name of Trosin and another individual at Minnesota and Iowa financial institutions. One of the applications falsely represented that Trosin had 120 employees on his payroll and over $5 million in payroll expenses when, in truth, Trosin did not operate a business at all. Trosin then transferred much of the proceeds of the fraudulently obtained loans to Sakyi, who, as indicated, transferred the funds elsewhere.
Sakyi was sentenced in Sioux City by United States District Court Chief Judge Leonard T. Strand. Sakyi was sentenced to 40 months’ imprisonment. He was ordered to make $1,093,400.00 in restitution. He must also serve a two-year term of supervised release after the prison term. There is no parole in the federal system. Trosin received a 40-month prison sentence in July 2021 for his role in the money laundering conspiracy.
“One of our utmost priorities is to ensure that CARES Act funds get to American Citizens in need. IRS:CI is committed to investigating fraud related to CARES Act programs,” said Special Agent in Charge Tyler Hatcher of IRS Criminal Investigation. “This defendant laundered over $900,000 in CARES Act funds. IRS:CI, along with our law enforcement partners, remain committed to combat and prevent this type of pandemic-related fraud.” “Attempting to defraud any SBA program undermines the spirit and true intent of uplifting the nation’s small business community,” said SBA OIG’s Central Region Special Agent in Charge Sharon Johnson. “Our Office will remain relentless in the pursuit of fraudsters who seek to exploit SBA’s vital economic 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.” After the sentencing, FBI Omaha Special Agent in Charge Eugene Kowel said, “Benjamin Sakyi used the COVID pandemic to defraud the U.S. government of more than $900,000 dollars in CARES Act funds that were intended for legitimate businesses struggling to remain operational. The FBI and our federal partners will continue to protect the integrity of federal assistance funds by identifying, investigating, and bringing to justice those who use a pandemic to fill their own pockets.” Acting United States Attorney Timothy T. Duax stated, “Sakyi and Trosin callously took advantage of emergency financial assistance that Congress intended to provide to businesses struggling to stay afloat during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. The district court’s sentences serve as a stark warning and deterrent to those who would be tempted to engage in similar activity.”
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.
Sakyi is being held in the United States Marshal’s custody until he can be transported to a federal prison. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Timothy L. Vavricek and investigated by the the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Small Business Administration, Office of Inspector General.
Court file information at https://ecf.iand.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/login.pl.
The case file number is 21-CR-4013. The case file number for Donald Trosin’s case is 20-CR-4066.
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