Can I Take Your Order?

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“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” is an all-too-common quote used to inspire anyone confronted by failure. But for Salwan Adjaj, once a dentist from Oregon, maybe an addendum “but don’t try to succeed in crime” should have been added.

Beginning in September 2020 and continuing until at least May 2021, Adjaj submitted dozens of fraudulent loan applications to the Small Business Administration (SBA) to obtain Economic Impact Disaster Loan (EIDL) and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds. Adjaj used the names and employer identification numbers (EIN) of fictitious business entities on his fraudulent applications, listing his personal residence as the business mailing address.  He fabricated information about the businesses for what he hoped appear to be legitimate businesses in need. But the SBA didn’t agree and rejected Adjaj’s initial EIDL applications.

But our fraudster perceived not trying again as the crime and not the fraudulent activity!  Adjaja began focusing primarily on the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF), a pandemic economic relief program aimed at supporting restaurants, bars, and other food- and drink-related businesses. And here Adjaj had substantially greater success stealing PPP and RRF funds than he did EIDL. In May 2021, Adjaj submitted three RRF applications for restaurants allegedly located Sarasota, Miami, and Daytona Beach, Florida. Like his fraudulent EIDL and PPP applications, Adjaj’s RRF applications contained false business information, and all listed his personal residence as the business mailing address.

Altogether, Adjaj’s fraudulent applications caused the SBA to pay out more than $11.5 million in loans, grants, and associated lender fees. Someone eventually figured out our fraudster was just a dentist and not a taking orders from his restaurant menu. On September 13, 2022, Adjaja pleaded guilty to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

But wait!  Our dentist did not just limit his crimes to fake restaurant PPP loans. On July 13, 2022, in a separate criminal case, Adjaj admitted to using his position as a dentist to obtain controlled substances and pleaded guilty to illegal distribution. As part of his plea agreement, Adjaj has agreed to pay no less than $10.5 million in restitution to the SBA.

Great job by the Small Business Association in putting a stop to Adjaj’s fraudulent PPP applications.

Today’s Fraud of the Day is based on an article “Dentist used fake restaurant businesses to steal millions in COVID funds, feds say” published by The Sacramento Bee on September 14, 2022

A former Oregon dentist filed dozens of fraudulent loan and grant applications, in some instances using fictitious restaurant businesses, to steal nearly $11.5 million in COVID-19 relief funds, prosecutors said.

Salwan Adjaj, 43, pleaded guilty on Tuesday, Sept. 13, to “wire fraud and aggravated identity theft,” the United States Attorney’s Office District of Oregon said in a news release. Adjaj’s lawyer did not immediately respond to McClatchy News’ request for comment on Sept. 14.

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Larry Benson, Senior Director of Strategic Alliances, LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

Larry Benson is responsible for developing strategic partnerships and solutions for the government vertical. His expertise focuses on how government programs are defrauded by criminal groups, and the approaches necessary to prevent them from succeeding.

Mr. Benson has 30 years of experience in sales and business development. Before joining LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, he spent 12 years founding and managing two software technology startups. During the 1990s he spent 10 years as a Regional Director helping to grow a New England-based technology company from 300 employees to 7,000. He started his career with Martin Marietta Aerospace working on laser guided weapons and day/night vision systems.

A sought-after speaker and accomplished writer, Mr. Benson is the principal author of “Fraud of the Day,” a website dedicated to educating government officials about how criminals are defrauding government programs. He has co-authored WTF? Where’s the Fraud? How to Unmask and Stop Identity Fraud’s Drain on Our Government, and Data Personified, How Fraud is Changing the Meaning of Identity.

Benson holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Albright College, and earned two graduate degrees – a Master of Business Administration from Florida Institute of Technology, and a Master of Science in Engineering from Lehigh University.