California man sentenced to more than 11 years for $27 million PPP fraud scheme | takeover bid

A Southern California man was today sentenced to 135 months, the equivalent of 11 years and three months, in prison for submitting fraudulent claims seeking Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) money , submitting false statements to a financial institution and laundering money.

Robert Benlevi, 53, of Encino, was convicted by a federal jury of bank fraud, making false statements to a financial institution and money laundering on March 28. According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, Benlevi submitted 27 PPP loan applications to four banks between April and June 2020 on behalf of eight companies solely owned by Benlevi. In the applications, Benlevi requested a total of $27 million in repayable PPP loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act. In his fraudulent claims, Benlevi said each of his businesses had 100 employees and an average monthly payroll of $400,000, even though he knew the businesses had no employees or payroll expenses.

The evidence further showed that Benlevi also submitted fabricated IRS documents, incorrectly indicating that each of the companies had an annual payroll of $4.8 million. Based on Benlevi’s fraudulent loan applications, three of Benlevi’s companies – 1Stellar Health LLC, Bestways2 Health LLC and Joyous-Health4U LLC – obtained $3 million in PPP funds. Although Benlevi falsely stated that the funds sought through PPP loan applications would be used for payroll and certain other business expenses, the evidence showed that he instead used them for personal expenses, including withdrawals. cash, payments to his personal credit cards, transfers to other personal and business accounts he controlled, and the rental of a beachfront apartment in Santa Monica.

Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Acting U.S. Attorney Stephanie S. Christensen for the Central District of California; Deputy Director Luis Quesada of the FBI’s Criminal Investigations Division; Acting Deputy Director in Charge Amir Ehsaei of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office; Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey D. Pittano of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Office of Inspector General (FDIC-OIG); and Special Agent in Charge Weston King of the SBA Office of Inspector General (SBA-OIG) Western Region made the announcement.

The FBI, SBA-OIG, and FDIC-OIG investigated the matter.

Trial Attorney Justin Givens of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section prosecuted the case.

On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to mobilize Department of Justice resources in partnership with government agencies to scale up enforcement and prevention efforts. pandemic-related fraud. The task force strengthens efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies administering relief programs to prevent fraud by augmenting and integrating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and by sharing and leveraging information and knowledge gained from previous enforcement efforts. For more information about the department’s response to the pandemic, please visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.

Anyone with information about alleged 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’s online complaint form at address https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud /formulaire-de-plainte-en cas-de-catastrophe-ncdf.

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