HOUSTON – Five Houston men have pleaded guilty to their participation in a scheme to fraudulently obtain and launder millions of dollars in forgivable Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the United States Department of Justice announced Monday.
According to court documents, Muhammad Anis, 55, Nishant Patel, 41, Harjeet Singh, 49, all of Houston, and Arham Uddin, 27, and Ammas Uddin, 30, both of Richmond, engaged in a conspiracy to defraud the SBA and certain SBA-approved PPP lenders by submitting false PPP loan applications.
Investigators said all five men also assisted in laundering the loan funds by supplying co-conspirators with blank and endorsed checks that were made payable to people posing as employees of the companies that received the PPP loan, but who were not actual employees. The fake paychecks were then cashed at check-cashing stores that other members of the conspiracy or others controlled, the DOJ said.
As part of the scheme, authorities said Anis obtained a fraudulent PPP loan in the amount of $483,333; Patel obtained a false and fraudulent PPP loan in the amount of $474,993; Singh obtained two false and fraudulent PPP loans for a total of $937,379; Arham Uddin obtained a false and fraudulent PPP loan in the amount of $491,664; and Ammas Uddin obtained a false and fraudulent PPP loan in the amount of $498,415.
The men each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. They are scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 4, 2024. At that time, each faces up to five years in prison, authorities said.
In addition to these five, one other person was reportedly convicted at trial for his involvement in the scheme and 15 others have pleaded guilty to their involvement in the loan fraud scheme.
Assistant U.S. attorneys Rodolfo Ramirez and Kristine Rollinson are prosecuting the cases along with Trial Attorneys Louis Manzo, Della Sentilles, Kate McCarthy and Spencer Ryan of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.