December 3, 2022

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Indian National Charged in $8 Million COVID-19 Relief Fraud Scheme

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<div>A federal grand jury in Newark, New Jersey, returned an indictment today charging an Indian national for fraudulently obtaining millions of dollars in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.</div>

A federal grand jury in Newark, New Jersey, returned an indictment today charging an Indian national for fraudulently obtaining millions of dollars in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

According to court documents, Abhishek Krishnan, 40, previously resided in Wake County, North Carolina, before returning to his home country of India. After returning to India, Krishnan allegedly submitted numerous fraudulent PPP loan applications to federally insured banks, including on behalf of purported companies that were not registered business entities. The fraudulent PPP loan applications allegedly included false statements about the companies’ employees and payroll expenses, as well as falsified tax filings. As part of the fraud scheme, Krishnan allegedly used the name of another person without that person’s authority. Krishnan allegedly submitted at least 17 PPP loan applications seeking over $8.2 million and received more than $3.3 million in loan proceeds. Following receipt of the funds, Krishnan allegedly laundered the proceeds of the fraud.  

Krishnan is charged with two counts of wire fraud, two counts of money laundering, and two counts of aggravated identify theft. If convicted, Krishnan faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on each of the top counts and a mandatory minimum of two years in prison on each count of aggravated identify theft. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger for the District of New Jersey; Special Agent in Charge Mark Morini of the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), Southeast Field Division; Special Agent in Charge Kyle A. Myles of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Office of Inspector General (FDIC-OIG), Atlanta Region; U.S. Marshal Michael East for the Eastern District of North Carolina; and Special Agent in Charge Amaleka McCall-Brathwaite of the Small Business Administration Office of Inspector General (SBA-OIG), Eastern Region made the announcement.

The TIGTA, FDIC-OIG, U.S. Marshals Service, and SBA-OIG are investigating the case.

Assistant Chief Justin Woodard and Trial Attorney Thomas D. Campbell of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Katherine M. Romano for the District of New Jersey are prosecuting the case, with assistance from Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan B. Menzer for the Eastern District of North Carolina.

In a separate case, Krishnan was recently charged in the Eastern District of North Carolina with theft of government property and aggravated identity theft regarding his alleged receipt of unemployment insurance benefits funded by the federal government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Fraud Section leads the Criminal Division’s prosecution of fraud schemes that exploit the PPP. Since the inception of the CARES Act, the Fraud Section has prosecuted over 150 defendants in more than 95 criminal cases and has seized over $75 million in cash proceeds derived from fraudulently obtained PPP funds, as well as numerous real estate properties and luxury items purchased with such proceeds. More information can be found at https://www.justice.gov/criminal-fraud/ppp-fraud.

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 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 via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.

An indictment is merely an allegation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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