American Justice Notebook

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Man Sentenced to Five Years in Prison for Misusing Nearly $500,000 in COVID-Relief Loans

          LOS ANGELES 

Officials stated that a Riverside County man was sentenced Tuesday to five years in federal prison for using hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for personal expenses such as luxury cars.

According to authorities, Oumar Sissoko got a COVID-business relief loan for more than $7 million on behalf of his pothole-repair company.

  U.S. District Judge John F. Walter sentenced  Sissoko, 59, of Murrieta. The judge also ordered him to pay $499,827 in restitution.

          On April 15, after a three-day trial, a jury found Sissoko guilty of four counts of wire fraud.

          The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act is a federal law enacted in March 2020. It’s designed to provide emergency financial assistance to the millions of Americans who are suffering the economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

One source of relief provided by the CARES Act was the authorization of up to $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses for job retention and certain other expenses through the PPP.

In April 2020, Congress authorized more than $300 billion in additional PPP funding.

          Sissoko obtained a $7.25 million loan for his downtown Los Angeles-based company, Road Doctor California LLC, after submitting a PPP loan application in April 2020.

          red and white flower petalsIn the loan application, Sissoko claimed that Road Doctor was in the process of hiring 450 full-time employees and would have average monthly payroll expenses of $2.9 million.

When he applied for the loan, Sissoko acknowledged that the funds would be used to retain workers and maintain payroll or make mortgage interest, lease, and utility payments.

          In the days after the PPP loan was funded on May 1, 2020, Sissoko misappropriated hundreds of thousands of dollars of the loan proceeds to use for impermissible purposes.

The purchases included a Mercedes-Benz for $113,000, paying off a loan on a BMW, and buying an Apple computer for more than $5,000.

          The illegal uses of the loan also included a non-refundable down payment of approximately $100,000 to purchase a company located in New Hampshire.

The attempted transmission of about $150,000 to accounts in the African nation of Mauritania associated with a mineral-exploration company for which Sissoko purported to serve as CEO.

          On March 24, a federal jury deadlocked on the charges against Sissoko and a mistrial was declared. A second trial resulted in Sissoko’s criminal conviction.

                    Anyone with general information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Justice Department’s National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at (866) 720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.

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