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U.S Attorney's Office in Colorado investigating dozens of fake COVID-19 claims, worth roughly $75 million

In May, a former Denver hotel and nightclub owner was indicted on four counts of wire fraud related to pandemic loans.
Posted at 2:35 PM, Jun 14, 2024

DENVER — The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado (USACO) is investigating dozens of COVID-19 fraud cases, worth roughly $75 million.

In May, a former Denver hotel and nightclub owner was indicted on four counts of wire fraud related to pandemic loans. According to the USACO, "[Amin] Suliaman sought loan funding for companies that were inoperable at the time of application and for a company that Suliaman had told a bankruptcy court was closed."

Denver7 Investigates learned the USACO is investigating "40 to 50" more cases of potential fraud, estimated to be worth more than $75 million in total.

"Taking it on has been a challenge, but it's not that different than other complicated white-collar investigations," said Matt Kirsch, the acting U.S. Attorney for the district.

Kirsch said his office has charged 26 people in the district and "about half" have been sentenced. He said the USACO has "already seized over $1 billion in potentially in fraudulent loan application proceeds."

In August 2023, Colorado became one of five states in the country with a designated COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Strike Force.

"Within the office, we have two full-time prosecutors and two part-time prosecutors who are specifically dedicated to doing work for the task force," said Kirsch.

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) inspector general estimates more than $200 billion in fraud from between the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDL) and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

"The money was trying to go out quick, greed got in the way, and fraudsters came from all over and tried to grab as much of the money as they could at the time," said Jonathan Towle, the assistant special agent in charge for IRS Criminal Investigations.

Towle sees a wide range of fraudulent claims, from nonexistent businesses to owners who spent the loans inappropriately. The Denver IRS field office covers investigations for Colorado, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.

"One of our most egregious cases here in the Denver field office — again, this happened in the state of Montana — was an individual got one of these loans, and 11 days after receiving the loan that was supposed to go to his business and to his employees, he bought four luxury vehicles," said Towle.

Charges for PPP, as well as other COVID-19 relief programs, have a statute of limitations of 10 years.

"I want the people in Colorado to know that people throughout the federal government are working hard to try to recover as much of this money that was stolen as we can," said Kirsch.