WORCESTER - A local man pleaded guilty to charges related to fraudulent use of Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security [CARES] Act funds in U.S. District Court in Worcester on Wednesday, September 15.
Richard Oworae, 59, of Worcester, pleaded guilty to three counts of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft.
According to federal prosecutors, between July and August of 2020, Oworae submitted applications through SBA’s website for at least three Economic Injury Disaster Loans [EIDL] totaling approximately $194,700.
Oworae provided false statements on the loan applications using the stolen personal identification information of another person and misappropriated the loan funds for personal use. Oworae also created fictitious companies to fraudulently applying for EIDL, and spent funds obtained from that fraud on unauthorized personal expenses and to make money transfers through a money-remitter business based in Tanzania to individuals in Ghana.
The CARES Act allowed for the SBA to offer EIDL funding to business owners negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The EIDL program requires that loan proceeds only be used on certain permissible business expenses, which can 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.
The charges of wire fraud provide for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater.
The charge of aggravated identity theft provides for a mandatory sentence of two years in prison, served consecutively to any sentence imposed for the wire fraud counts, and a fine of up to $250,000.