Not too long ago, we learned of Pastor Rudolph Brooks Jr., a pious man of the cloth who also ran an imaginary car dealership along with several other paper businesses. He used those fictional business entities to apply for millions of dollars in loans from the CARES Act via the Paycheck Protection Program. He then promptly spent the money on a fleet of expensive cars including a Mercedes Benz S Class, two Infinity Q50s, a Cadillac Escalade, and a Bentley Continental. Pastor Brooks is very likely on his way for an extended vacation in the crowbar hotel, but he may wind up with some company. This week we’re learning of yet another “businessman” who thought that the CARES Act looked like a fine way to score some quick cash with no one being the wiser. Mustafa Qadiri, a 38-year-old California man who claimed to operate four different businesses, received more than five million dollars in PPP loans from three different banks. I’ll let you try to guess what he did with the money. (NY Times)
A man in California who received more than $5 million in Payment Protection Program loans intended to help struggling businesses during the coronavirus pandemic was arrested on Friday on federal bank fraud and other charges after he used the money to buy a Lamborghini and other luxury cars, federal prosecutors said.
The man, Mustafa Qadiri, 38, of Irvine, was indicted by a federal grand jury on four counts of bank fraud, four counts of wire fraud, one count of aggravated identity theft and six counts of money laundering, the U.S. attorney in the Central District of California announced.
Federal prosecutors said Mr. Qadiri’s efforts to obtain federal loans started in late May 2020 and netted him nearly $5.1 million by early June. Mr. Qadiri is accused of using that money to go on a spending spree that included buying a Ferrari, a Lamborghini and a Bentley and paying for “lavish vacations,” all of which are prohibited under the Payment Protection Program, prosecutors said.
What is it with these scammers and luxury cars? Is everyone who rips off the COVID relief program just sitting around and waiting to fill a garage with top-notch vehicles? The Bentley Continental seems to be a very popular choice with the fraudsters since both Brooks and Qadiri got one. The Ferraris and Lamborghinis seem to be hot tickets with these guys as well.
But didn’t they think somebody was going to notice? They’re supposedly in big trouble because of how hard the pandemic has hit their businesses but all of a sudden there are $100,000 luxury cars showing up in their driveway and they’re cruising around town flashing Benjamins everywhere they go? Perhaps that’s why they both got caught.
Not necessarily, though. The other thing both of these men had in common was a lack of any ability (or intelligence) when it came to trying to establish a paper trail to cover their tracks. As it was with Pastor Brooks, Mustafa Qadiri filled out all of the required forms and listed four companies that immediately showed up as either being empty shells on paper or didn’t exist at all. To add some additional spice to the formula, Qadiri used a false name and social security number on one of the forms. If he’s convicted on all of the pending charges, the total possible prison sentence is believed to be in excess of 300 years.
The luxury car connection I mentioned above carries over to some other PPP fraud cases we haven’t covered here. One man from Florida was busted last year for taking nearly $4 million in loans fraudulently. Another guy in Texas helped himself to $1.6 million in loans. Both men had Lamborghinis confiscated from them when the feds came calling.
We’re still left with the same questions that I posed when we talked about Pastor Brooks, however. What if we’re only catching the stupid ones who concoct the most ham-handed attempts at ripping off the government that can be imagined? We know that identity theft takes place all the time and a huge number of crimes go unsolved. There are some smart scammers out there who might know how to play this system like a fiddle and not be quite so blatant with their ill-gotten gains. We may never know the full extent of the grifting that is going on in response to these pandemic relief bills.