4 more Californians added to federal virus relief fraud case

Federal prosecutors have charged four additional Southern California residents with participating in a scheme to fraudulently obtain COVID-19 relief funds, the U.S. Justice Department announced Friday.

A superseding indictment added the four to a case filed in November against four others alleging they submitted more than 150 fraudulent loan applications seeking nearly $22 million in relief funds under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

Three of the new defendants were arrested Thursday and were arraigned before a U.S. magistrate judge who released them on bond and ordered them to stand trial May 4, a department statement said. The fourth defendant was still being sought.

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Prosecutors said the defendants used fake, stolen and so-called synthetic identities to apply for loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration through the Economic Injury Disaster Relief Program and the Paycheck Protection Program under the CARES Act.

The defendants used the money to make down payments on homes and purchase items ranging from luxury goods to cryptocurrency, prosecutors said.

All are charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Each is also named in other counts. The superseding indictment also alleges two original defendants committed crimes after being released on bond.

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