A man pleaded guilty last week in a Florida federal court to using bogus identities in a scheme to steal $24 million of COVID-19 relief funds using shell companies he and other alleged conspirators created to allegedly commit other bank fraud, according to the U.S. Attorney for the southern district of Florida.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, Hasan Hakim Brown, 45, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Fort Lauderdale to steal the funds made available through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a federal program to help firms keep workers employed during the coronavirus crisis.
The U.S. Attorney said Brown and others manufactured “synthetic identifies” by using personal and financial information of real people mixed with fake information to open fraudulent bank and credit card accounts and commit other fraud.
“Years before the pandemic, Brown and his co-conspirators used complex computer data storage and virtualization machines to manufacture synthetic identities, automatically open bank accounts and shell companies, and monitor bank activity tied to the synthetic (as well as stolen) identities,” according to a release from the U.S. Justice Department. “In 2017, they used the synthetic and stolen identities and associated bank accounts and shell companies to steal money from a bank in Texas.”
In 2020, in conjunction with the coronavirus crisis, the federal law enforcement agency said, Brown and his co-conspirators used their already-established synthetic identities and associated shell companies to allegedly apply for financial assistance fraudulently, receiving $24 million in PPP relief. The U.S. Attorney said the money was paid to companies registered to Brown and his co-conspirators as well as to companies registered to synthetic identities that Brown and his co-conspirators controlled.
Brown pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to commit bank fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in federal prison. Sentencing is set for Sept. 30.