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Ithaca Man Convicted of $140K in PPP Loan Fraud


An Ithaca man was convicted Wednesday at the conclusion of a non-jury trial of two counts of wire fraud and three counts of transacting in criminally derived property for fraudulently obtaining two Paycheck Program (PPP) loans during the pandemic. 60-year-old Ejembi Onah received over $140,000 in loan proceeds and spent those proceeds, among other things, in three separate transactions each exceeding $10-THOUSAND dollars.

United States Attorney Carla B. Freedman; Thomas Fattorusso, the Special Agent in Charge of the New York Field Office of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI); and Matthew Scarpino, Special Agent in Charge of the Buffalo Field Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), made the announcement.

PPP loans were United States Small Business Administration (SBA)-guaranteed, forgivable loans authorized in the Coronavirus Aid Relief, Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was enacted in March 2020 to provide emergency financial assistance to Americans suffering adverse economic effects from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The government’s evidence at trial established that Onah submitted two fraudulent PPP loan applications to two different lenders in June 2020. Each application included false information about the payroll and number of employees at Onah’s company, which he claimed was engaged in a seasonal nanotechnology business, and were supported by falsified tax returns. Onah spent the more than $140,000 he received to, among other things, pay back rent at his personal residence, lease a luxury car, and fund his expenses of daily living.

Sentencing is scheduled for February 15, 2024. Onah faces up to 20 years’ imprisonment for each wire fraud count and up to 10 years’ imprisonment for each money laundering count, a term of post-imprisonment supervised release of up to three years, restitution to the victims, and a fine of up $250,000 per count. A defendant’s sentence is imposed by a judge based on the statutes the defendant violated, the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, and other factors.

In addition, the Court found during the trial that Onah must forfeit to the United States over $140,000 in loan proceeds and an additional nearly $100,000 of those proceeds that he spent in three different transactions exceeding $10,000 each.

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