Subject of Miami Herald briefing accused of COVID rescue fraud

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A Texas man reported in a 2020 Miami Herald investigation whose companies were approved for millions of suspicious loans under the Paycheck Protection Program has been charged with multiple counts of wire fraud and misrepresentation to a bank.

The federal charges in the Eastern District of Texas come from three loans received by companies linked to Sinoj Joseph which totaled more than 3 million dollars.

The program was one of the signature relief programs passed by Congress in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and offered small business loans up to $ 10 million that were repayable if used for payroll. and other approved expenses.

The program was designed to support existing businesses and several businesses related to Joseph appeared to have been formed after the date businesses had to exist to be eligible for the program. The Herald also found that several of the companies featured nearly identical websites touting the same services.

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Screenshots of the websites of three companies, all connected to the same man from Texas, which are surprisingly similar. Two of the three companies received paycheck protection program loans.

If convicted, Joseph faces up to 20 years in prison for wire fraud and up to 30 years in prison for making false statements to a bank.

The Herald report, produced in partnership with the non-partisan organization Anti-Corruption Data Collective, reported over 200 dubious PPP loans made to newly formed businesses and other seemingly ineligible recipients, including several businesses owned by people facing criminal charges, which was disqualifying.

Much of the loans reported in the Herald reports were approved by non-bank financial technology companies, or FinTech, and the Herald reports was cited by the House subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis when it launched an investigation into the role of the FinTech industry in PPP fraud.

While the Small Business Assistance Program administered by the US Small Business Administration, which has distributed nearly $ 800 billion in loans, has undoubtedly kept millions of businesses afloat, it has also been plagued by fraud. The Office of the Inspector General of the Small Business Administration, for example, found in january that nearly 55,000 loans worth about $ 7 billion were made to businesses that were created after the eligibility date, declared too many employees, or were too large to qualify for the program.

This story was originally published October 15, 2021 6:34 pm.

Ben Wieder is a data and investigative reporter in McClatchy’s Washington office. He previously worked at the Center for Public Integrity and Stateline. Her work has been honored by the Society of American Business Editors and Writers, the National Press Foundation, the Online News Association, and the Association of Health Care Journalists.


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