Chinese National Pleads Guilty To $20 Million COVID-19 Pandemic Loan Fraud Scheme
Muge Ma, a/k/a “Hummer Mars,” Lied that His Phony Companies Had Hundreds of Employees and Paid Millions in Wages to Receive COVID-19 Loan Funds
Audrey Strauss, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that MUGE MA, a/k/a “Hummer Mars,” a Chinese national who resided in New York, New York, pled guilty today in connection with a fraudulent scheme to obtain over $20 million in Government-guaranteed loans designed to provide relief to small businesses during the novel coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic. In connection with loan applications for relief available from the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (“EIDL”) Program, MA falsely represented to the U.S. Small Business Administration (“SBA”) and at least five financial institutions that his companies, New York International Capital LLC (“NYIC”) and Hurley Human Resources LLC (“Hurley”), had hundreds of employees and paid millions of dollars in wages to those employees, when, in fact, MA appears to have been the only employee of his companies. MA was previously arrested on May 21, 2020, and has been detained since his arrest. He pled guilty today before U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman and is scheduled to be sentenced on September 22, 2021, at 11:00 a.m.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said: “As he admitted in court today, Muge Ma attempted to secure over $20 million in Government-guaranteed loans intended for businesses devastated by the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic. In furtherance of the scheme, Ma falsely represented to banks and the SBA that he owned two companies with hundreds of employees to whom he paid millions in wages. In truth, Ma appears to be the only employee of either company and he had no legitimate claim to the funds for which he applied. Small businesses are facing uncertainty and unprecedented challenges, the least of which should be opportunists attempting to loot the federal funds meant to assist them. Now Muge Ma awaits sentencing for his admitted criminal skulduggery.”
According to the allegations contained in public filings in Manhattan federal court:
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. One source of relief provided by the CARES Act was the authorization of hundreds of billions of dollars in forgivable loans to small businesses for job retention and certain other expenses through the SBA’s PPP. Pursuant to the CARES Act, the amount of PPP funds a business is eligible to receive is determined by the number of employees employed by the business and their average payroll costs. Businesses applying for a PPP loan must provide documentation to confirm that they have previously paid employees the compensation represented in the loan application. The CARES Act also expanded the separate EIDL Program, which provided small businesses with low-interest loans of up to $2 million that can provide vital economic support to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing due to COVID-19.
From at least in or about March 2020 through at least on or about May 15, 2020, MA applied to the SBA and at least five banks for a total of over $20 million in Government-guaranteed loans for his companies NYIC and Hurley (together, the “Ma Companies”) through the SBA’s PPP and EIDL Program. In connection with these loan applications, MA represented, among other things, that he was the sole owner and executive director of the Ma Companies, that the Ma Companies were located on the sixth floor of his luxury condominium building in New York, New York, and that NYIC and Hurley together had hundreds of employees and paid millions of dollars in wages to those employees on a monthly basis. In fact, however, MA appears to have been the only employee of NYIC since at least in or about 2019, and Hurley does not appear to have any employees. In order to support the false representations made by MA in the loan applications about the number of employees at, and the wages paid by, the Ma Companies, MA submitted fraudulent and doctored bank records, tax records, insurance records, payroll records, and/or audited financial statements to five different banks, and also provided links to the Ma Companies’ websites, which describe them as purportedly “global” companies. In the course of these loan applications, MA also misrepresented that he was a United States citizen, when, in fact, he is a Chinese national with lawful permanent resident status in the United States. MA also used the name and identity of another person in connection with the submission of a fraudulent loan application and supporting documentation to at least one financial institution.
Before the discovery of the fraudulent conduct by MA, the SBA approved a $500,000 EIDL Program loan for NYIC and a $150,000 EIDL Program loan for Hurley, and at least a $10,000 loan advance was provided to NYIC. In addition, a bank approved and disbursed over approximately $800,000 in PPP loan funds for Hurley, which were frozen in connection with this investigation. As a result, MA sought to withdraw his loan applications from the banks and return the funds.
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MA, 37 of New York, New York, pled guilty to one count of bank fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, and one count of aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of two years to be run consecutively to any other sentence imposed. The maximum potential sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.
Ms. Strauss praised the investigative work of the FBI’s Financial Cybercrimes Task Force, SBA-OIG, and IRS-CI. Ms. Strauss also thanked the New York City Police Department, the Office of the New York State Comptroller, and the New York State Department of Labor for their assistance with the investigation.
The prosecution of this case is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit. Assistant United States Attorney Sagar K. Ravi is in charge of the prosecution.