Federal authorities have arrested and charged seven people for allegedly stealing $16 million from federal programs meant to help businesses struggling with the coronavirus pandemic. Six of the individuals are from the Houston area, while the seventh person is from Illinois.
Amir Aqeel, 52, Pardeep Basra, 51, Rifat Bajwa, 51, Mayer Misak, 40, Mauricio Navia, 41, Richard Reuth, and Siddiq Azeemuddin were all charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud. Aqeel and Azeemuddin were also charged with money laundering. The charges were laid out in a 20-page indictment released by the FBI.
"The department and our law enforcement partners will continue to aggressively pursue those who would seek to illegally exploit the ongoing national emergency for their own benefit," Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian Rabbitt said in a press release.
Officials said the men falsified documents to apply for fraudulent loans from the Paycheck Protection Program. They created fake tax documents and wrote checks to non-existent employees, which they cashed themselves. The men filed at least 80 fraudulent claims and pocketed $16 million mean to help businesses. They spent the ill-gotten funds on luxury items, including a Porsche and Lamborghini.
"Some fraudsters create the most complicated schemes to steal money from the taxpayer. Just imagine how productive they could be if they put their creativity and effort into noble and useful work," U.S. Attorney Ryan Patrick said.
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