BOSTON — A Winchester man was convicted by a federal jury yesterday of filing fraudulent loan applications seeking more than $13 million in Small Business Administration (SBA) backed forgivable loans for COVID-19 relief through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) under the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act.
Elijah Majak Buoi, 40, was convicted after a three-day trial of four counts of wire fraud and one count of misrepresentation to a financial institution. U.S. District Court Chief Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV set sentencing for June 16, 2022. Buoi was arrested and charged by criminal complaint in June 2020 and later indicted by a federal grand jury in July 2020.
Buoi submitted six fraudulent PPP loan applications on behalf of his company Sosuda Tech, LLC (Sosuda) to four different SBA-approved lenders. In each loan application, Buoi misrepresented the number of employees and salary expenses. Buoi also submitted fraudulent IRS tax forms in support of his claims. Evidence at trial showed that Sosuda was a start-up with no US-based payroll or employees. As a result of his scheme, Buoi secured a $2 million PPP loan. The government recovered approximately $1.97 million of the loan funds.
The CARES Act is a federal law enacted on March 29, 2020, designed to provide emergency financial assistance to millions of Americans suffering from the economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the sources of relief provided by the CARES Act was the authorization of up to $349 billion in small business forgivable loans for job retention and certain other expenses, through the PPP. . In April 2020, Congress authorized over $300 billion in additional PPP funding.
The PPP allows small businesses and other eligible organizations to receive loans with a term of two years and an interest rate of 1%. PPP loan proceeds are to be used by businesses for payroll costs, mortgage interest, rent and utilities. The PPP allows for the interest and principal of the PPP loan to be forgiven if companies spend the proceeds of these expenses within a specified period of time and use at least a certain percentage of the loan for payroll expenses.
The wire fraud charge carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, up to three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000 or double the gross gain or loss of the ‘offense. The charge of false reporting to a financial institution carries a sentence of up to 30 years in prison, up to three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000 or double the earnings or of the gross loss of the offence. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based on the US Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
United States Attorney Rachael S. Rollins; Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, special agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division; Joleen D. Simpson, special agent in charge of criminal investigation for the Internal Revenue Service in Boston; Stephen Donnelly, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Eastern Region, Office of Inspector General of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection; Amaleka McCall-Brathwaite, Special Agent in Charge of the Small Business Association, Office of the Inspector General, Eastern Regional Office; and Patricia Tarasca, Special Agent in Charge of the Office of the Inspector General of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, New York Region, made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorney Mackenzie A. Queenin of Rollins’ Securities, Finance, and Cyber Fraud Unit, and General Counsel Della Sentilles of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section are pursuing 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, among other methods, by increasing and integrating coordination mechanisms existing ones, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their agendas, and 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 at 866-720-5721 or via NCDF’s online complaint form at: https://www. .justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.