Software Engineer Pleads Guilty in COVID Relief Scheme

He submitted fake applications to lenders, nonprofits and a major tech company.

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SEATTLE (AP) — A Seattle man has pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud for carrying out a scheme to defraud several COVID-19 relief programs, according to federal prosecutors.

Baoke Zhang, 35, of Issaquah, Washington, pleaded guilty last week in federal court in Seattle. He admitted that he submitted four fake applications to three different lenders for forgivable loans under the Paycheck Protection Program, which provides payroll help to small businesses, prosecutors said.

To support the loan applications, Zhang used fake entities for which he created fake payroll and tax records, prosecutors said. Two of the fake loan applications sought $600,000 each, a third application sought $325,000, and a fourth sought approximately $41,000.

Zhang also sent in fake applications to two non-profit organizations that give grants to restaurant workers suffering economic hardship due to the pandemic.

Zhang also admitted that he submitted a fraudulent application to a multinational technology company headquartered in Seattle, Washington, that was providing grants to qualifying small businesses in the Seattle area.

He falsely claimed in his application that he ran a small business in a local shopping center that had suffered economically due to the pandemic. However, Zhang did not own any businesses. Zhang obtained $5,000 from the relief program before his fraud was detected, prosecutors said.

In total, Zhang admitted to attempting to defraud the various COVID-19 relief programs of more than $550,000, prosecutors said.

Sentencing was set for Jan. 29, 2021.

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