Former Oregon Dentist Pleads Guilty to Stealing Nearly $11.5 Million in Covid-Relief Program Funds
PORTLAND, Ore.—A former Oregon dentist pleaded guilty today in federal court for fraudulently converting to his personal use nearly $11.5 million in loans intended to help small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Salwan Adjaj, 43, of West Linn, Oregon, pleaded guilty to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.
According to court documents, beginning no later than September 2020 and continuing until at least May 2021, Adjaj submitted dozens of fraudulent loan applications to the Small Business Administration (SBA) in an attempt to obtain Economic Impact Disaster Loan (EIDL) and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds. The EIDL and PPP programs were among several economic relief programs originally authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES). They enabled SBA to issue low-interest loans to small businesses adversely impacted by the pandemic and associated mitigation measures.
Adjaj used the names and employer identification numbers (EIN) of fictitious business entities on his fraudulent applications. He further provided false information about the business start dates, number of employees, and locations, and the identities of the purported applicants and business owners. Most of the fraudulent applications were submitted in other peoples’ names, but with Adjaj’s personal residence as the business mailing address. All of the applications were submitted online from an internet protocol (IP) address associated with Adjaj’s dental practice.
After SBA rejected most of Adjaj’s initial EIDL applications, he began focusing primarily on the PPP program as well as the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF), a pandemic economic relief program aimed at supporting restaurants, bars, and other food- and drink-related businesses. The RRF program was authorized by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) in March 2021. Adjaj had substantially greater success stealing PPP and RRF funds than he did EIDL. In May 2021, Adjaj submitted three RRF applications for restaurants allegedly located Sarasota, Miami, and Daytona Beach, Florida. Like his fraudulent EIDL and PPP applications, Adjaj’s RRF applications contained false business information and all listed his personal residence as the business mailing address.
Together, Adjaj’s fraudulent applications caused the SBA to pay out more than $11.5 million in loans, grants, and associated lender fees.
On October 14, 2021, Adjaj was charged by criminal complaint with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. On December 14, 2021, he was arrested following a pretrial release violation and, one day later, ordered detained pending further court proceedings. Adjaj remains in custody pending sentencing.
On July 13, 2022, in a separate criminal case, Adjaj pleaded guilty to illegally distributing controlled substances, including thousands of pills of prescription drugs and anabolic steroids. Adjaj further admitted to using his position as a dentist to obtain some of the drugs he illegally distributed.
In his Covid-relief fraud case, Adjaj faces a maximum sentence of 22 years in prison, a $250,000 fine (or twice his gross gains or his victims’ gross losses), and three years’ supervised release. In his drug case, Adjaj faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, a $500,000 fine, and three years of supervised release. He will be sentenced in both cases on December 6, 2022, by U.S. District Court Judge Michael W. Mosman.
As part of his plea agreement, Adjaj has agreed to pay no less than $10.5 million in restitution to SBA and his victim lenders.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), the SBA Office of Inspector General, the U.S. Secret Service, and the FBI. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan W. Bounds is prosecuting the case.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act is a federal law enacted on March 29, 2020, designed to provide emergency financial assistance to the millions of Americans who are suffering the economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Justice Department’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.