Two former employees of the New York branch of a major bank and an accountant charged with loan fraud under the Cares Act | USAO-EDNY
A criminal complaint was unsealed in Brooklyn federal court earlier this morning and two criminal complaints were filed yesterday indicting Anuli Okeke, Charlene Wint and Hashim Campbell for their involvement in a bank and wire transfer fraud conspiracy related to a system fraudulently more than $ 3 million from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) programs, both launched by Congress as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act . Wint and Campbell pleaded guilty to US judge Roanne L. Mann on Thursday for conspiracy to commit bank and wire transfer fraud. Okeke was arrested this morning and made his first appearance this afternoon before US Judge Robert M. Levy, who released the defendant on $ 100,000 bail.
Jacquelyn M. Kasulis, Acting US Attorney for the Eastern Borough of New York; Kenneth A. Polite, Jr., Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division; Michael J. Driscoll, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI); John Grasso, Special Representative, Social Security Administration, Inspector General’s Office (SSA-OIG); Jay N. Lerner, General Inspector, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Office of Inspector General (FDIC-OIG); Stephen Donnelly, acting Special Representative, Office of the Inspector General for the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve Systems and the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, Eastern Region (FRS-OIG); and Amaleka McCall-Brathwaite, Special Agent-in-Charge, Office of the General Inspector of the US Small Business Administration, Eastern Region Office (SBA-OIG), announced the charges.
“As alleged, the defendants planned to steal millions of funds specifically earmarked by Congress to provide emergency relief to small businesses and vulnerable workers during a global pandemic and time of great economic hardship,” said Acting US Attorney Kasulis. “Together with our law enforcement partners, this agency will vigorously pursue defendants who shamelessly seek to enrich themselves using government programs designed to help those in need during the COVID crisis.”
“Unfortunately, fraudulent systems that exploit the paycheck protection program are all too common. Okeke, Wint and Campbell, as indicted today, join the others before them who have taken upon themselves to personally and illegally benefit from the safeguards offered to small businesses during a global pandemic. They are unlikely to be the last, however, and the FBI and our partners will continue to uncover more such plans and bring their perpetrators to justice, ”said Driscoll, assistant director of the FBI.
“Our office will relentlessly investigate fraud plans and get them to the root,” said McCall-Brathwaite, SBA-OIG’s special agent-in-charge. “SBA’s PPP and EIDL programs are designed to help the country’s small businesses struggling with the challenges of the pandemic. I would like to thank the US Attorney General and our law enforcement partners for their dedication and pursuit of justice. “
“The defendants in this case – two bank clerks from a large financial institution and an accountant – are charged with using the bank’s business for personal gain to fraudulently obtain government guaranteed loans [which were intended to help small businesses during the current pandemic]. We remain committed to working with our law enforcement partners to investigate cases where individuals seek to take advantage of federal aid programs and undermine the integrity of our country’s banks, ”said FDIC Inspector General Lerner.
“We are resolved to hold all wrongdoers accountable for fraudulent activities affecting the Federal Reserve Board’s ability to serve small businesses under the Paycheck Protection Program liquidity facility,” said FRS-OIG Special Agent-in-Charge Donnelly.
The CARES Act is a federal act enacted on March 29, 2020 to provide emergency aid in connection with the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. One source of relief from the CARES Act has been the allocation of funds for the granting of forgivable loans to small businesses for job retention and for certain other expenses through the PPP. The PPP enabled qualified small businesses to obtain unsecured loans on favorable terms that they needed to use for specific expenses, including labor, mortgage interest, rent, and utilities. The PPP provided for loan waiver when the recipient companies spent the proceeds on those specified expenses within a limited period of time and used a certain percentage towards labor costs.
Another resource of the CARES Act was the EIDL program, which provided low-interest finance to small businesses, tenants and homeowners in regions affected by declared disasters. Under the program, EIDL beneficiaries were able to receive small business advances of up to $ 10,000 within three days of applying for an EIDL (EIDL Advance). The amount of an EIDL advance payment was determined based on the number of employees of the applicant. The EIDL advance did not have to be repaid.
As claimed in the accounting records, Okeke, branch manager of a major financial institution, Wint, a manager of the same branch, and Campbell, a tax advisor, along with their co-conspirators, provided false tax documents and helped borrowers complete and submit PPP applications that contained fraudulent information . Although Okeke knew that the PPP applications contained false information, Okeke signed each PPP loan application on behalf of the bank and submitted it for approval. After the loan proceeds were paid off to the borrowers, Okeke, Wint, Campbell, and their co-conspirators received kickbacks from the loan proceeds. In addition, Okeke, Wint, Campbell, and their co-conspirators were involved in preparing fraudulent EIDL applications that fabricated borrowers’ finances, and sometimes seeking out loans to individuals who were not legitimate business owners.
The charges in the lawsuit are allegations and Okeke is deemed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The government’s case is handled by the Office’s Commercial and Securities Fraud Division and the Fraud Division of the Criminal Investigation Division. U.S. Assistant Attorneys Julia Nestor, Chand Edwards-Balfour, and Lindsay Gerdes of the Eastern District of New York, and Trial Attorney Michael McCarthy of the Fraud Department are with the assistance of U.S. Assistant Attorney Brian D. Morris. the Office’s Property Forfeiture Department responsible for the indictment.
Bronx, New York
Bronx, New York
New York, New York
EDNY file numbers 21-CR-477 (FB), 21-CR-478 (FB) and 21-CR-477 (FB)