Judge Sends Cocaine Dealer To Prison For Covid-Relief Fraud
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Michigan
Grand Rapids man sentenced to 87 months for role in conspiracy to obtain more than $1 million in COVID-19 relief funds.
GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — United States Attorney Mark Totten announced today that a local drug dealer has been sentenced to more than seven years in prison for his role in a plot to obtain more than $1.4 million COVID-19 relief funds.
“Instead of treating the COVID-19 pandemic as a tragedy, Jemar Mason welcomed it as an opportunity to get rich quick. He took money intended to keep workers from losing their jobs, all while dealing cocaine.” said U.S. Attorney Mark Totten, for the Western District of Michigan. “My office remains committed to holding fraudsters fully accountable for their misdeeds.”
Defendant Jemar Mason is a previously convicted drug offender from the Grand Rapids area. In 2020, he joined a scheme with four other people: Andre Jackson, a corrupt former police officer from Georgia, Jackson’s “accountant,” a local used-car salesman, and a local cocaine user named David Kurbanov. The group worked together to help Mason and Kurbanov prepare fraudulent applications for Paycheck Protection Program loans authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security ("CARES") Act. This Act was a federal law 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 forgivable loans to small businesses through the PPP program, which was designed to provide small businesses with loans in order to keep employees on payroll. Mason and his co-conspirators exploited the program to obtain approximately $1.495 million in fraud proceeds. Afterwards, Mason and his confederates attempted to hide the proceeds by marking expenditures like car purchases as “payroll” expenses. Mason and Kurbanov also attempted to wire $500,000 to an overseas bank account that Jackson selected in order to invest the money for their own profit.
Investigators from the Internal Revenue Service detected the plot and took steps to freeze the bank accounts of the conspirators, ultimately recovering approximately $1.123 million of the fraud proceeds. Federal prosecutors in the Western District of Michigan brought charges against five codefendants, including Mason, all of whom have now been convicted in connection with the scheme.
Mason’s criminal activity went beyond financial crimes: he was also trafficking cocaine. After obtaining a Title III wire intercept, investigators from the Drug Enforcement Administration learned that Mason, his coconspirators, and associates were actively dealing drugs throughout West Michigan. Search warrants later uncovered multiple stash locations that were used to hide drugs, firearms, and drug dealing tools.
Mason’s prison term of 87 months will be followed by a six-year term of supervised release in which his activity will be monitored by the United States Probation Office.
“Mason exploited the pandemic to defraud United States taxpayers for his own personal gain,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Charles Miller, Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, Detroit Field Office. "IRS-CI is proud to work with our law enforcement partners to hold wrongdoers accountable and to protect the integrity of vital federal assistance programs.”
DEA Special Agent in Charge for the Detroit Division also weighed in, stating, “Mason and many of his associates were responsible for trafficking kilogram-level quantities of addictive and destructive illicit drugs throughout western Michigan. Their criminal acts have certainly destroyed lives and eroded communities. This sentencing should serve as a stark reminder to anyone peddling poisons in our communities: your unlawful and destructive actions will not be tolerated.”
The charges in this case were part of an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation, dubbed Operation Cashout, by law enforcement officers in the Western District of Michigan and the Northern District of Georgia, including the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Postal Inspection Service, the United States Secret Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the Michigan State Police, the Kent Area Narcotics Enforcement Team (KANET), and the Grand Rapids Police Department.
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. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF.
Updated December 21, 2022