The federal government considers fraud of public funds earmarked from natural disaster relief programs a particularly black-hearted crime. A Chicago tax preparer is facing charges that he helped his clients obtain millions in coronavirus relief aid under The CARES Act. While helping your clients secure loans is not in itself a federal crime, helping them secure loans under false pretenses is. Hadi Isbaih is charged with four counts of wire fraud. An indictment returned recently confirmed the charges.
The government reinforced its commitment to prosecute those who steal from public coffers and deprive those who need the money of much-needed relief.
Evaluating the Accusations
Isbaih is accused of falsifying documents to help his clients gain access to small business loans and other lifelines supplied by the government during the pandemic. It is likely that he himself received money from the clients to get their government SBA loans as part of a kickback scheme. He and his clients would split the money, and there would be less money for those who really needed it. A spokesperson for the SAC told the press that those who steal government funds earmarked for those in serious need are “unconscionable.” In other words, these folks lack a conscience.
The stolen money was set aside for small businesses likely to be hurt by the pandemic. It allowed small businesses to cover payroll and other expenditures while they were closed. In fact, many small businesses themselves will likely face charges if they did not use the money for the purpose it was dispensed. However, those who helped others forge documents related to the pandemic relief could face enhanced charges.
In this case, Isbaih will face at least four counts of wire fraud, uttering forged documents, and similar crimes related to making material misrepresentations to the federal government.
It is Worse to Defraud the Government of Natural Disaster Relief
18 U.S. Code § 1040 makes it a crime to defraud the federal government of emergency relief aid. In fact, it doubles the sentences and sentencing points for those implicated in such schemes. In fact, the maximum sentence for disaster relief fraud is 30 years. This individual is facing four counts of disaster relief fraud.
While his sentence is unlikely to go as high as 120 years, the federal government will assign points to every element of his crime. They will then compare this point total to their sentencing guideline sheet for various crimes. The sentencing guidelines will establish a base sentence. In this case, it could be as high as 60 years.
The moral of the story is: Avoid defrauding the federal government of funds established for the help of those in need, especially disaster relief funds. The sentences are roughly doubled in these cases.
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