Liberian Pleads Guilty to US$23M COVID-19 Relief Fraud In America

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MONROVIA – A Liberian national residing in the United States has pleaded guilty to fraudulent acts which amounts to corruption in relations to a US$23Million fund intended for a COVID-19 loan program for businesses in the USA.

Steven Jalloul, a 43-year-old North Texas Tax Consultant was accused of orchestrated the fraudulent act to secure more than US$23 million in forgivable Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans.

He was first charged following a criminal complaint against him in September 2020 and was indicted later that month. He pleaded guilty to the federal financial crime on Tuesday, Oct. 19.

 Jalloul admitted to superseding information charging him with one count of engaging in monetary transactions using property derived from unlawful activity.

“The Paycheck Protection Program was designed to help hardworking businesspeople keep their companies afloat during the pandemic – not to line the pockets of unscrupulous accountants,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Chad Meacham in a statement.

“The Justice Department will prosecute anyone who attempts to exploit pandemic-era financial programs. There are countless businesses ravaged by COVID-19 that deserved this money; Mr. Jalloul did not.”

According to plea papers, Jalloul admitted he defrauded lenders who participated in the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

The US$350 billion program was authorized by the US Congress in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic to award forgivable loans to small businesses affected by the outbreak.

Court documents revealed that Jalloul also admitted that he submitted roughly “170 falsified PPP loan applications to lenders seeking more than $23 million on behalf of more than 160 clients of his tax preparation business, Royalty Tax & Financial Services LLC”.

Jalloul further confessed of inflating clients’ employee rosters and monthly payroll expenses in order to increase the amount of PPP funds for which their businesses would be eligible, a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office reveals.

He generally charged clients a 2 to 20 percent commission on the PPP loans they received and even listed his ex-wife as Royalty Tax’s authorized representative, without her consent, when seeking an inflated PPP loan for his own business.

The documents revealed that in total, 97 false PPP loan applications were ultimately approved, and Jalloul’s clients were awarded more than $12 million in PPP money.

It pointed out that those clients paid him at least $972,114 in fees.

Though his sentencing date has not been set, Jalloul is expected to face up to 10 years in federal prison for the PPP fraud.

He is currently being incarcerated at FCI-Seagoville.

Jalloul’s neighbors at Garland, remember him for living a flamboyant and opulent lifestyle. He drove fancy cars and wore expensive clothes.

Like Corkrum, like Jalloul

The latest admittance made by Jalloul comes barely few months after another Liberian, Madam Ellen Corkrum, former head of the Liberia Civil Aviation Authority (LCAA) pleaded guilty to defrauding the U.S. government out of millions of dollars using the Paycheck Protection Program.

The U.S. Department of Justice said Ellen Corkrum, who legally changed her name to Hunter VanPelt in July 2016, submitted several PPP loan applications under both names.

The six entities she owned or controlled that sought the loan include: Georgia Nephrology Physician Associated, United Healthcare Group & Co., Nephrology Network Group LLC, First Corporate International, Corkrum Consolidated Inc., and Kiwi International Inc.

Acting U.S. Attorney Erskine, at the time disclosed that VanPelt (Ellen Corkrum) submitted six false and fraudulent PPP loans between April 27, 2020 and June 17, 2020. The amounts requested in the six loans totaled $7,943,591.50, of which $6,017,066.50 was disbursed.

In each of the PPP loan applications, authorities said she falsely represented the average monthly payroll and the number of employees working for the relevant company.

Madam Corkrum or VanPelt is also accused of submitting falsified documents including IRS records, bank statements, payroll reports in connection with those applications.

“The Paycheck Protection Program is key to survival for many small businesses during the COVID-19 crisis,” said Chris Hacker, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “It is particularly disturbing that anyone would try to capitalize off a federal program at those businesses’ expense. The FBI will persist in its efforts to stop such fraud.”

Madam Corkrum or VanPelt is expected to be sentenced on January 4, 2020. She is expected to spend up to 30 years in jail.

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