New York Man Sentenced for COVID-19 Relief Fraud Scheme

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FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen at the United States Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C.

BOSTON – A New York Man was sentenced today on charges arising from a scheme to fraudulently obtain business loans and unemployment pandemic relief funds made available under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Ronald Buie, 35, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Douglas P. Woodlock to 18 months in prison and three years of supervised release. Buie was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $304,237. On March 15, 2022, Buie pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud.

Buie engaged in a scheme to defraud the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) by submitting fraudulent applications for loans offered in connection with the CARES Act. Specifically, Buie used stolen or fabricated identities – including counterfeit driver’s licenses, Social Security cards and W-2s, among other forged documents – to open fraudulent bank and credit accounts and to apply for various SBA loans and Massachusetts and Ohio Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits. Buie also submitted fraudulent documentation to apply for and obtain a fraudulent SBA loan for $60,000 for his company, Platinum Car Service LLC. Specifically, in support of his loan application, Buie provided what he purported to be a monthly bank statement for his business checking account showing an ending balance of more than $198,000, whereas bank records for that particular month show that the actual balance was less than $3,000.

As a result of the scheme, Buie fraudulently obtained over $274,000 in SBA loans and over $70,000 in PUA benefits. Of this, one SBA loan of approximately $65,000 was successfully reversed and $5,000 in cash was seized from Buie’s residence.

United States Attorney Rachael S. Rollins; Andrew Murphy, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Secret Service, Boston Field Office; Jonathan Mellone, Special Agent in Charge of Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations; and Ketty Larco-Ward, Inspector in Charge of the United States Postal Inspection Service made the announcement today. Valuable assistance was provided by the U.S. Secret Service, New York Field Office; Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance; and the New York City Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney William F. Abely, Chief of Rollins’ Criminal Division, prosecuted the case.

On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. The Task Force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud by, among other methods, augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts. For more information on the Department’s response to the pandemic, please visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.

Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.