A Ghanaian couple based in the United States of America have been arrested and charged with fraud.
The suspects, Lucy Oworae, 56 and her husband Richard Oworae, 59, allegedly schemed to defraud the Small Business Administration (SBA) of about $194,700 between late July 2020 and late August 2020.
The couple, who live in Worcester, a city in Central Massachusetts were arrested on Thursday, January 21 and were subsequently been charged with wire fraud and making false statements.
According to a news release by the United States Department of Justice, the Oworaes fraudulently applied for business loans under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act).
It added that they also applied for the Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL loans) with false statements on the loan applications and misappropriated the loan funds for their personal use.
The EIDL funds are available to eligible individuals and businesses pursuant to the “CARES Act”, which allowed for the SBA to offer EIDL funding to business owners negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The provisions of the EIDL program require that loan proceeds only be used on certain permissible business expenses, which include payment of fixed business debts, payroll, accounts payable, and other business-related expenses that could have been paid had the COVID-19 disaster not occurred.
However, the Oworaes allegedly created fictitious companies for the purpose of fraudulently applying for the EIDL loans, and spent the funds on unauthorized personal expenses.
They also allegedly made money transfers through a money-remitter business based in Tanzania to numerous individuals residing in Ghana.
If found guilty, the Oworaes would face up to 20 years in prison for wire fraud, three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000.
The charge of making false statements provides for a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000.