A so-called international ministry based in Florida appeared to be doing nothing religious and was fraudulently receiving millions from the paycheck protection program, federal agencies say.
US intelligence seized more than $ 7.5 million from accounts with Bank of America and another $ 868,000 from First American Trust of the ASLAN International Ministry. This resulted in a civil action filed in the US District Court in Orlando, Florida.
When agents went to Orlando, Florida, where the address was given for the group, no one answered and the door was locked, according to the complaint made by the U.S. Attorney’s office in that city.
And the group’s website has been removed.
“The website contained general business information that was believed to have come from other websites and was generated as its own information,” said the complaint filed on Monday. “The links on this website that a user could use to donate or seek employment were inactive.”
In the complaint, a judge is asked to sign the confiscation of the seized money to the federal government, “on the grounds that the funds come from bank fraud”.
The case is the latest in a line of law enforcement agencies crackdown on massive fraud under the PPP program, which has resulted in more than 80 arrests related to fraud worth at least $ 240 million. The secret service alone has around 700 pending PPP-related investigations.
Although the investigation is pending and no arrests have been made, the court claims how easy it was for the group to obtain a PPP loan.
The investigation focuses on the family who appear to run the organization.
In a 2018 Florida governance motion filed with ASLAN International, a man was listed as chairman and president, his son as vice president and director, and his daughter as secretary and director.
According to the complaint, ASLAN International was told by First Home Bank that it could receive $ 8.4 million in PPP funds. In his motion, which claimed he had 486 employees and non-profit status, the money was used for salary, rental, mortgage, and utility benefits. IRS records show 2019 sales of $ 51.8 million.
After the loan was approved, the money was transferred to two Wells Fargo accounts with the son and father listed as signatories. The money was then transferred through three Bank of America accounts that listed the daughter as the sole signatory, the complaint said.
Intelligence agents found that $ 868,250 of the money was transferred to an account held by the Royal Bank of Canada on behalf of another woman with the same last name as the three family members, and then to an account held by the First American Trust Bank on behalf of the First American Title Insurance Company. The money was used as bail on a $ 3.7 million Orlando home on behalf of the second wife, the complaint said.
In September Florida Highway Patrol agents stopped a vehicle to accelerate on I-75.
The four family members were in the car according to the complaint. Authorities said they found external hard drives, a paper shredder, several credit and gift cards, laptops, and a handwritten note in the car that the Department of Homeland Security had frozen her bank account. The electronic items seized included a government research manual titled “Tracking Financial Institutions’ Flows” and news articles about the SBA credit fraud investigation.
CNBC has asked the Secret Service for a comment.
CARES approved loans of up to $ 349 billion from the Small Business Administration through the Paycheck Protection Program.