A Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) fraud scheme that involved nearly 100 individuals across the country and had acquired up to $1 million in fraudulent loans has ended in four defendants being charged in the U.S. Department of Justice’s District of South Carolina.
In 2020, Congress passed the largest financial support package in U.S. history: the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, which authorized $349 billion in PPP loans.
The program provided small businesses with funds to pay up to eight weeks of payroll costs so that the businesses could fill in the financial gaps that the lockdowns created.
It was implemented by the Small Business Administration (SBA) through the Treasury Department, and it provided forgivable loans to small businesses for job retention and other expenses.
Those charged are 25-year-old Jacob Liticker from Houston, Texas; 29-year-old Ganiyu Victor Ladepo from Fayetteville, North Carolina; 26-year-old Kehinde Mubarak Ladepo, an enlisted member of the U.S. Air Force stationed at Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, South Carolina; and 24-year-old Maxwell Uzoma Okobi from North Carolina, currently deployed to Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, the U.S. attorney’s office announced.
The four were indicted on charges alleging that they were a part of a national scheme led by Liticker to acquire $2 million in PPP loans administered by the SBA.
Each defendant could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison if convicted, along with fines and restitution.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina, Liticker allegedly created false PPP loan applications for up to 100 people across the country for amounts of about $20,000.
He’s accused of assisting those individuals in submitting false information to SBA-approved lenders.
“In doing so, he would often create false tax documentation to support the non-existent businesses,” the U.S. attorney’s office stated. “In exchange for his services, Liticker would receive a portion of the PPP loan proceeds. The indictment alleges that Liticker would also assist in getting the loans forgiven.”
“PPP loans were finite funds designed to help businesses stay afloat amid unprecedented times and extraordinary challenges. Every dollar wrongly taken from this taxpayer-funded program was a dollar that could not go to a legitimate business in need,” said U.S. Attorney Adair F. Boroughs in a press release. “This Office takes pandemic-related crime seriously and stands ready to prosecute fraud related to the Coronavirus in all its forms. This case highlights those efforts.”
In May 2021, the U.S. Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to “investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors” and to help agencies administering relief programs to prevent fraud, the U.S. attorney’s office stated.