MILWAUKEE — A Milwaukee man and three others from out of state are accused of stealing $874,229 in federal funding meant to benefit small businesses.
Aziz Bey of Milwaukee, Letez Bey of Illinois, Divine-Seven El of Maryland and Florida and Minister Zakar were indicted earlier this week for several charges related to a scheme to defraud the Small Business Administration out of funds meant for those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The indictment says between June 2020 to July 2021, the group of men submitted numerous false Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loan applications. These applications included supporting financial documentation including bank statements and IRS forms which also had false income, revenue and expenses, according to the indictment.
The fake businesses included one in agriculture, one in real estate development, two in business services and three printing/graphic design companies. In total, the group of men received $774,800 in EIDL.
The indictment also says the men filed PPP applications for building equipment, management consulting, credit bureaus and a barber shop. In total, they received $99,429 in PPP loans.
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This is part of a larger national problem involving people faking information to collect COVID relief funds from the government. Friday, the United States Secret Service announced it returned $286 million to the Small Business Administration from fraudulently collected EIDL funds. This is part of $2.3 billion stolen nationwide since the start of the pandemic.
“The Secret Service is dedicated to safeguarding the integrity of the nation’s financial systems against fraud and holding those responsible to account for their criminal activity,” said Assistant Director David Smith in a press release. “By aiding in the return of nearly $2.3 billion in stolen funds over the last 30 months, our workforce has demonstrated a clear and firm commitment to the vitality of American businesses across the country.”
In total, Wisconsin business owners have received nearly $4 billion in EIDL. The US Secret Service and SBA did not indicate how much of that was fraudulently taken.
The charges against Bey and the others include conspiracy to commit wire fraud, seven counts of wire fraud, three counts of mail fraud and wire fraud, three counts of mail fraud and four counts of unlawful monetary transactions.
Read the indictment below: