IRS Releases COVID Fraud Statistics Ahead of CARES Act 3rd Anniversary

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IRS Releases COVID Fraud Statistics Ahead of CARES Act 3rd Anniversary
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By the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Los Angeles Office

Three years after the enactment of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) has investigated 975 tax and money laundering cases related to COVID fraud with alleged fraud in these cases totaling $3.2 billion. These cases include a broad range of criminal activity, including fraudulently obtained loans, credits and payments meant for American workers, families, and small businesses.

Of those cases, 458 individuals have been indicted for their alleged COVID-related crimes, and 236 individuals have been sentenced to an average of 37 months in federal prison. Throughout the three years, CI has a nearly 100% conviction rate in prosecuted cases.

“Today we want to take the time to recognize the anniversary of the CARES act. COVID changed our lives forever, putting strain on families, individuals, businesses and the entire economy. The CARES act was passed to aid those in need and help everyone get through the pandemic and to the other side,” said Tyler Hatcher Special Agent in Charge of IRS Criminal Investigation's Los Angeles Field Office. “As programs and benefits were rolled out under the CARES act, criminals rolled in to steal money and take advantage during this unprecedented time. The Los Angles Field Office is committed to using our expertise to track down, investigate and bring those criminals to justice. Below are just a few of the many investigations worked by our field office. These sentencings should serve as a warning to the criminals, we won’t stand by while you steal and use emergency funds for unlawful purposes, you will face the consequences which include significant jail time.”

Case examples include:

Fontrell Antonio Baines, a.k.a. “Nuke Bizzle,” was sentenced to 77 months in federal prison and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $704,760 to the California Employment Development Department (EDD). Baines bragged about defrauding the EDD in a music video posted to YouTube and in postings to his Instagram account. From July 2020 to September 2020, Baines exploited the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) provisions of the CARES Act to obtain unemployment insurance money. Baines filed 92 fraudulent PUA claims with EDD, resulting in attempted losses to EDD and the United States Treasury of approximately $1,256,108 and actual losses of at least $704,760.

  • Co-Conspirators sentenced to 46 months and 36 months for role in COVID unemployment fraud ring

On or before 2020, and continuing through December 2, 2020, co-conspirators of Arman Aghasinyan and Arayik Avetisyan, used stolen identities to apply for unemployment benefits. Then pandemic-enhanced unemployment funds were loaded to debit cards issued by Bank of America. Aghasinyan and Avetisyan received the debit cards from their co-conspirators and traveled to different ATMs to withdrawal the funds. Through this conspiracy, defendant Aghasinyan defrauded Bank of America out of at least $2,902,000 and Avetisyan defrauded Bank of America out of at least $1,464,167. On June 6, 2022, Arnab Aghasinyan was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $2,902,000. On October 17, 2022, Arayik Avetisyan was sentenced to 36 months in federal prison and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $1,464,167.

  • Irvine man sentenced to 41⁄2 years in federal prison for fraudulently obtaining $5 million in COVID loans he spent on sports cars
    Mustafa Qadiri, of Irvine, California, was sentenced to 54 months in federal prison in February 2023 for fraudulently obtaining $5 million in COVID-relief loans for his sham businesses, which he used to buy Ferrari, Bentley and Lamborghini cars. He was also fined $20,000 and ordered to pay $2.86 million in restitution. Qadiri claimed to have operated four Newport Beach-based companies, none of which were in operation and submitted false and fraudulent Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan applications to three banks on behalf of those companies. Qadiri falsified the number of employees to whom the companies paid wages, altered bank account records to include inflated balances, and provided fictitious quarterly federal tax return forms. Qadiri also used someone else's name, Social Security number and signature to fraudulently apply for one of the loans.

  • Irvine man sentenced to 4 years in federal prison for obtaining more than 5 million dollars in COVID relief loans for sham businesses
    Raghavender Reddy Budamala was sentenced to 48 months in federal prison and ordered to pay restitution of $5,151,497. Budamala previously plead guilty to one count of bank fraud and one count of money laundering. From April 2020 through March 2021, Budamala filed for COVID relief loans using three shell corporations. Budamala falsely claimed the companies had dozens of employees and earned millions in revenue. In total, six loans were funded and disbursed totaling approximately $5,151,497. Budamala also applied to have the loans forgiven, stating he used the SBA loans to pay payroll. The investigation uncovered that Budamala used the funds for personal expenditures including the purchase of a $1.2 million investment property in Eagle Rock, a $597,585 property in Malibu, a personal residence in Irvine, $970,000 investment in EB- 5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program and nearly $3 million into a personal TD Ameritrade account. Budamala attempted to abscond from the United States into Mexico and has been in custody since his arrest on or about February 23, 2022.

IRS-CI encourages the public to share information regarding known or suspected fraud attempts against any of the programs offered through the CARES Act. To report a suspected crime, taxpayers may visit

The CARES Act was signed into law on March 27, 2020, to provide emergency financial assistance to millions of Americans suffering the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. One source of relief provided by the CARES Act was the authorization of up to $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses for job retention and certain other expenses, through the PPP. In April 2020, Congress authorized over $300 billion in additional funding, and in December 2020, another $284 billion.

The PPP allows qualifying small businesses and certain other organizations to receive loans with a maturity of two to five years and an interest rate of 1%. Businesses must use PPP loan proceeds for payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent and utilities. The PPP allows the interest and principal to be forgiven if businesses spend the proceeds on these expenses within a set time period and use at least a certain percentage of the loan towards payroll expenses.

To learn more about COVID-19 scams and other financial schemes visit Official IRS information about COVID-19 and Economic Impact Payments can be found on the Coronavirus Tax Relief page, which is updated frequently.

IRS-CI is the criminal investigative arm of the IRS, responsible for conducting financial crime investigations, including tax fraud, narcotics trafficking, money-laundering, public corruption, healthcare fraud, identity theft and more. IRS-CI special agents are the only federal law enforcement agents with investigative jurisdiction over violations of the Internal Revenue Code, boasting a more than a 90 percent federal conviction rate. The agency has 20 field offices located across the U.S. and 12 attaché posts abroad.

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edney Mar 26, 2023 01:45 PM
IRS Releases COVID Fraud Statistics Ahead of CARES Act 3rd Anniversary

For the sake of discussion Raghavender Reddy Budamala used the EB- 5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program. "The EB-5 Immigrant Investor visa program provides a path for foreign nationals to achieve permanent residence (a green card) in the United States." From the quote: " a path for foreign nationals".
Budamala is not the type of immigrant we should keep, I think stealing millons of dollars of taxpayer money intended to help people weather a pandemic disqualifies him permanently

snicker Mar 26, 2023 01:35 PM
IRS Releases COVID Fraud Statistics Ahead of CARES Act 3rd Anniversary

" it said he tried to abscond to Mexico"

Ah, so the Irvine man is a foreigner to Mexico.

"he was buying property with a visa program"

Um, no, that's not what it says: "Budamala used the funds for personal expenditures including [...] $970,000 investment in EB- 5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program"

Perhaps GIZMO a GPT bot.

snicker Mar 26, 2023 05:25 PM
IRS Releases COVID Fraud Statistics Ahead of CARES Act 3rd Anniversary

P.S. My apologies to Gizmo/A-1679854630 for misinterpreting his comment "he was buying property with a visa program- not a credit card" -- I wrongly took "with" to be "using", as opposed to "associated with". Yes, he apparently spent some of his ill-gotten COVID-19 gains on investment properties in order to qualify for an EB-5 visa.

Maybe this will encourage Gizmo to apologize for calling people stupid and being such a rank xenophobe. Alex asked a valid question. We can presume that Raghavender Reddy Budamala is a "foreigner" since he was attempting to obtain an EB-5 visa, but we don't know the citizenship or birthplace of the others.

Luvaduck Mar 26, 2023 09:03 AM
IRS Releases COVID Fraud Statistics Ahead of CARES Act 3rd Anniversary

Agreed. They brought the negative things from their cultures and are unlikely to change their modus operandi. It would probably be a good idea to give their family and friends a second look in terms of discovery. Often people operate on the same principles in small, given groups.

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