In a statement, the Office of U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lelling said Buoi requested more than $ 13 million in forgivable loans under the Wage Protection Program and succeeded in obtaining $ 2 million in bogus pretexts. Bank of America froze two accounts holding the $ 2 million.
Buoi allegedly lied in the requests by dramatically overestimating the number of employees at his company, among other lies.
“The defendant attempted to defraud an emergency program designed to help businesses and their employees survive the most difficult economic crisis since the Great Depression,” Lelling said in the statement. “This behavior is reprehensible, and my office is committed to finding and prosecuting this type of fraud wherever we find it.”
Lelling’s words were echoed by Joseph R. Bonavolonta, the FBI special agent in charge of the office’s Boston bureau.
“It’s outrageous that anyone trying to steal a program that was put in place to be a lifeline for businesses struggling to stay afloat during the pandemic, but we believe that’s exactly what it did. Elijah Buoi, “Bonavolonta said in the statement.
According to an affidavit filed in the case by FBI Special Agent Sheila Magoon, Buoi filed fraudulent loan applications on behalf of his company, Sosuda Tech LLC. Registered in Massachusetts last year, it markets itself as a provider of business technology services.
Small businesses that receive PPP funds must spend the money on expenses such as salaries, rent, and utilities. The program is designed to help businesses forced to shut down during the pandemic.
Buoi, Magoon wrote, made inconsistent statements on four loan applications regarding how many employees he has and where they are. In total, according to the affidavit, Buoi submitted at least four loan applications from April to June to Bank of America and three other lenders the government had approved for the program.
Magoon wrote that three requests “called for loans of $ 2 million each, and one [to Bank of America] requested a loan in the amount of 7.5 million dollars.
According to the affidavit, Buoi said in an application that he employed 353 people with an average monthly payroll of $ 3 million; claimed in another that he employed 18 people with an average monthly payroll of $ 150,000; and wrote in two others that he employed 96 people with an average monthly payroll of $ 800,000.
The affidavit stated that with each request, Buoi submitted payroll documents in the form of an Excel spreadsheet that did not contain any breakdown of its employees and their specific salaries. And, according to the record, there is no indication that he has recorded or filed quarterly wage reports with the State Department of Unemployment Assistance, which employers with workers in Massachusetts must do.
Additionally, Buoi’s LinkedIn page on June 18 said his company had six employees, including himself, and the other workers were in India, according to the affidavit.
Three lenders – Bank of America, Fountainhead and Newtek – have turned down Buoi’s PPP loan applications, according to records.
In the Bank of America application, in which Buoi allegedly applied for a PPP loan worth $ 7.5 million, the bank requested an IRS Form 940, and he first said he did not have did not file any tax returns last year and therefore did not have the form, according to the affidavit. Later, according to the record, Buoi provided what he claimed to be the tax form for 2019.
“Based on.. Buoi’s statement to Bank of America that Sosuda did not file a federal income tax return in 2019 and did not have an IRS Form 940, and the bank account information reflecting a lack of Salary payment consistent with his reported monthly expenses, I believe the IRS Buoi forms submitted in support of PPP loan applications are fraudulent, ”Magoon wrote.
Buoi had one of the four requests approved, according to the filing.
Lender Fundbox approved its $ 2 million PPP loan application and on June 15 deposited the money into a Bank of America account ending in 2641, according to the affidavit. Magoon wrote that there are “probable reasons to believe that this $ 2 million deposit represents proceeds attributable to electronic fraud.”
Prior to the $ 2 million deposit, the account had a balance of $ 536.07, according to the affidavit. And on the same day the $ 2 million was deposited, according to the record, $ 1.2 million was transferred to a separate Bank of America account.