A Washington technology executive has been taken into custody and charged over a $5.5million coronavirus relief fund fraud.
Mukund Mohan, 48, was accused of handing in fake documents and incorporation records to claim money from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) – which was set up to help businesses keep staff employed during coronavirus.
The ‘serial entrepreneur’, who spoke about business management during a TED talk in 2015, has been charged with one count of wire fraud and another of money laundering.
Mohan, from Washington, allegedly submitted eight fraudulent PPP loan applications on behalf of six different companies.
He made ‘numerous false and misleading statements about the companies’ respective business operations and payroll expenses’, according to the Department of Justice.
In one example, Mohan told a lender, the Peoples’ Bank, his company Mahenjo had dozens of employees.
He actually bought Mahenjo off the internet in May, when it had no employees or business activity, from a company that specialized in ‘aging’ shell corporations so they seemed legitimate.
Mohan transferred $231,000 of the loan into his personal brokerage account.
Mohan currently works as the chief technology officer at online Canadian building materials retailer BuildDirect, according to his LinkedIn.
He previously worked as a director of product management at Amazon business and director of engineering at Microsoft Cloud and Enterprise Business.
Ziganitt LLC, one of the companies for which he filed for coronavirus relief, is led in part by his teenage son – who is its Chief Marketing Officer.
It matches gamers with developers who need to test their games, according to Geekwire’s profile.
Mohan was handed $304,830 in PPP loans for the company, despite it never paying employee wages or payroll taxes.
And many of Mohan’s purported tech exploits were fabricated or exaggerated, according to a 2015 report in Delhi-based news site Inc42.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act is a federal law meant to provide emergency financial assistance Americans suffering the economic effects of COVID.
Small businesses can claim up to $349 billion in forgivable loans for job retention and certain other expenses through the PPP.
In April 2020, Congress authorized over $300 billion in extra PPP funding.
The PPP lets qualifying small businesses and other organizations to receive loans with an interest rate of one percent.
The money has to be used for payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent and utilities and interest and principal to be forgiven if businesses spend the proceeds on these expenses within a set time period.
At least a certain percentage of the loan needs to be put towards payroll expenses.
The investigation is ongoing.