Second man sentenced to federal prison in connection with Paycheck Protection Program fraud scheme | USAO-NDIA

A Virginia man who laundered more than $900,000 in loan proceeds fraudulently obtained through the Paycheck Protection Program was sentenced on July 20, 2022 to more than three years in federal prison. Benjamin Sakyi, 31, of Dumfries, Virginia, originally from Accra, Ghana, was sentenced to prison after pleading guilty on February 8, 2022 to one count of money laundering conspiracy.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES”) is a federal law enacted in late March 2020 that provided emergency financial assistance, including the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) and Economic Disaster Loan Fund (“EIDL”). , to the millions of Americans who were experiencing the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Evidence during Sakyi’s sentencing and other hearings showed that Sakyi received more than $900,000 in CARES Act funds obtained fraudulently from three different financial institutions on behalf of two Virginia companies, Blue Flight Logistics LLC and NKB Enterprise. LLC. Sakyi then transferred the funds elsewhere. Prior to laundering the CARES Act funds, several financial institutions had closed Sakyi’s accounts over the years due to his banking activity, which included more than $3.5 million in inbound and outbound financial transactions.

Sakyi received the CARES Act funds from a northwest Iowa man, Donald Franklin Trosin. More than 20 fraudulent PPP and EIDL loan applications were submitted to the Small Business Administration on behalf of Trosin and another individual at financial institutions in Minnesota and Iowa. One of the claims falsely stated that Trosin had 120 employees on its payroll and over $5 million in payroll expenses when in reality Trosin was not operating a business at all. Trosin then transferred much of the proceeds from the fraudulently obtained loans to Sakyi, who, as noted, transferred the funds elsewhere.

Sakyi was sentenced in Sioux City by Chief United States District Court Judge Leonard T. Strand. Sakyi was sentenced to 40 months in prison. He was ordered to make $1,093,400.00 in restitution. He must also serve a two-year supervised release sentence after the prison sentence. There is no parole in the federal system. Trosin was sentenced to 40 months in prison in July 2021 for his role in the money laundering conspiracy.

“One of our top priorities is to ensure that CARES Act funds reach American citizens in need. IRS:CI is committed to investigating fraud related to CARES Act programs,” said Special Agent in Charge Tyler Hatcher of the IRS Criminal Investigation. “This defendant laundered over $900,000 in CARES Act funds. IRS:CI, along with our law enforcement partners, remains committed to combating and preventing this type of pandemic-related fraud. “Attempting to defraud an SBA program undermines the spirit and true intent of uplifting the country’s small business community,” said SBA OIG Central Region Special Agent Sharon Johnson. “Our office will remain relentless in pursuing fraudsters who seek to exploit the SBA’s vital economic programs. I want to thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners for their dedication and commitment to ensuring justice is served. After the sentencing, FBI Omaha Special Agent in Charge Eugene Kowel said, “Benjamin Sakyi used the COVID pandemic to defraud the U.S. government of more than $900,000 in CARES Act funds that were intended to legitimate businesses struggling to stay operational. The FBI and our federal partners will continue to protect the integrity of federal aid funds by identifying, investigating, and bringing to justice those who are using a pandemic to line their pockets. Acting United States Attorney Timothy T. Duax said, “Sakyi and Trosin ruthlessly took advantage of the emergency financial assistance Congress intended to provide to businesses struggling to stay afloat. during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. District court convictions serve as a warning and deterrent to those who might be tempted to engage in similar activity. »

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 on 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.

Sakyi is being held in the custody of the United States Marshal until he can be transported to federal prison. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Timothy L. Vavricek and investigated by the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Small Business Administration. , Office of Inspector General.

Court records information at https://ecf.iand.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/login.pl.

The file number is 21-CR-4013. The file number for Donald Trosin’s case is 20-CR-4066.

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