An Ashburn, Virginia, man has pleaded guilty to a fraud scheme in which prosecutors say he and his wife used bogus companies to seek more than $6 million from a federal loan program to help struggling small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.
Tarik Jaafar, 42, pleaded guilty to defrauding various financial institutions and conspiring to defraud the U.S. government, according to a news release from the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.
Prosecutors said Jaafar and his wife, 43-year-old Monika Magdalena Jaworska, used four different shell companies to file 18 separate loan applications under the Paycheck Protection Program, which was designed to help small business pay their employees and keep their doors open.
In court documents, prosecutors said the couple claimed in paperwork their companies employed dozens of people, when in fact the companies “conducted no legitimate business and existed solely as a means to execute the scheme to defraud.”
All told, the couple secured $6.64 million in federal loans, eventually accumulating $1.4 million from a total of four loans via three different banks.
It’s unclear what tipped off authorities, but court documents show law enforcement officers visited the couple’s home in May and eventually spoke with the couple’s lawyer several times, including on June 16. The next day, Jaafar purchased two one-way tickets to Poland, prosecutors said.
The couple was arrested June 20 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York as authorities said they were attempting to flee to Poland.
Most of the funds had already been frozen by the banks in which the couple deposited the loan money, but prosecutors said Jaafar and Jaworska were able to withdraw $30,000 in cash, which was seized by authorities when the pair was arrested.
Jaafar faces a maximum of five years in prison when he is sentenced in November.
The case against his wife is still ongoing.