Thursday, July 25, 2024

Indian-American pleads guilty to stealing $160k in Covid relief

A 50-year-old Indian-American man from Bakersfield, California, has pleaded guilty to stealing $163,750 in Covid-19 relief money, the US Attorney for Eastern District of California announced.

According to court documents, Jaswinder Bhangoo applied for over $250,000 in Covid-19 relief loans from the US Small Business Administration between May 2020 and November 2021.

In the applications, he falsely represented that he owned multiple businesses with several employees and substantial revenues.

He also represented that he had not been convicted of a felony in the previous five years when, in fact, he had been convicted of insurance fraud.

Based on Bhangoo’s false representations, some of his loan applications were approved, and he received approximately $163,750 in federal funds to which he was not entitled.

He is scheduled to be sentenced by US District Judge Ana de Alba on February 20, 2024. and faces a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.

The probe was part of a California Covid-19 Fraud Enforcement Strike Force operation, one of five interagency teams established by the US Department of Justice.

The California Strike Force combines law enforcement and prosecutorial resources in the Eastern and Central Districts of California and focuses on large-scale, multi-state pandemic relief fraud perpetrated by criminal organisations and transnational actors.

The strike forces use prosecutor-led and data analyst-driven teams to identify and bring to justice those who stole pandemic relief funds.

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