Eight defendants were charged in Pennsylvania Thursday with scheming to fraudulently obtain more than $7 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL), and pre-pandemic Small Business Administration (SBA) loans.

According to court documents, beginning in or around January 2018, the following defendants were engaged in conspiracies to apply for loans on behalf of their respective businesses:

Frank Hamilton, 52, of Simi Valley, California

Michael Jones, 55, of Azusa, California

Tina Chen, 39, of Diamond Bar, California

Kenny Tran, 38, of Diamond Bar, California

Tim Park, 37, of Northridge, California

Peter An, 37, of Chatsworth, California

Joseph Greco, 42, of Simi Valley, California

Edwin Bonilla, 36, of Los Angeles, California

The defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty.

In exchange for fees, Hamilton, Jones, and others made the businesses appear to be functioning companies with operations and employees by creating fake documents, including fake bank statements and fictitious tax documents for the businesses.

One conspirator provided a script for other conspirators to use in calls with lenders. The conspirators allegedly obtained over $7 million in PPP, EIDL, and SBA loans. 

Court documents further allege that the conspirators followed so-called “forgiveness plans” that directed them to transfer the fraud proceeds as purported payroll payments for each of the companies that obtained PPP funds.

These “forgiveness plans” were designed to disguise the proceeds as payroll payments and make it appear that the loan recipient was meeting the SBA requires that a percentage of the PPP funds be used for payroll, thus increasing the likelihood that the loan recipient would qualify for loan forgiveness.

At Hamilton’s direction, Jones, Chen, Tran, Park, An, Greco, and Bonilla wired the disguised fraud proceeds to a bank account in the name of a dormant company Hamilton controlled.

Hamilton, Jones, Chen, Tran, Park, An, Greco, and Bonilla are each charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. If convicted, they each face up to 20 years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

This case was investigated by the SBA-OIG, IRS-CI, HSI’s Philadelphia Field Office, and the FBI’s Philadelphia Field Office. 

Trial Attorneys David A. Stier and Patrick B. Gushue of the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Judy G. Smith of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania are prosecuting the case.

On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across the government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud.

 For more information on the department’s response to the pandemic, please visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.

Anyone with information about allegations of 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 the NCDF Web Complaint Form at https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.

By Raul

Raul Hernandez is a former journalist. He has worked as a newspaper reporter for more than 30 years at the El Paso Herald-Post, El Paso Times, Press Enterprise in Riverside, California and the Ventura County Star in California. He was a court reporter for more than 20 years.

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