Chinese man sentenced to 4 years in prison for pandemic fraud | News on the coronavirus pandemic

Muge Ma was arrested in May 2020 by federal authorities who said he had asked at least five banks to try to obtain more than $20 million in government-backed loans from the Bank’s Check Protection Program. payroll and economic disaster loan program.

A Chinese man was sentenced to more than four years in prison on Thursday after admitting to fraudulently trying to obtain $20 million in federal coronavirus relief funds meant to save struggling businesses.

U.S. District Judge Richard M Berman announced the four-year, four-month prison sentence for Muge Ma during a sentencing hearing in Manhattan.

The judge said the prison sentence was necessary because of the seriousness of the crimes and the need for others to be warned about abusing government programs designed to help people in times of national emergency.

Ma, 38, was arrested in May 2020 by federal authorities who said he had asked at least five banks to try to obtain more than $20 million in government-backed loans from the protection program paychecks and the economic disaster loan program. Both programs were designed for businesses impacted by coronavirus shutdowns.

Authorities said he falsely claimed to pay millions of dollars in salaries to hundreds of employees through two companies he controlled. To support his allegations, he submitted fraudulent banking, tax, insurance and payroll records and provided the banks with links to websites describing the companies as “global”, prosecutors said.

In fact, they said, at the time, Ma worked alone in his $1.5 million condominium in Manhattan, falsely claiming that one of his companies represented New York State and helped the governor. of the time, Andrew Cuomo, to procure COVID-19 and personal test kits. protective equipment for frontline workers.

Ma, a lawful permanent resident who has been jailed since his arrest in May 2020, repeatedly said he was sorry before sentencing. He came to the United States in 2011 on a student visa.

“I love America,” Ma said. “I feel very, very sorry for my country, America.”

As well as decrying prison conditions over the past two years as “dirty, harsh, extremely cruel”, he repeatedly apologized for his crimes and said, “I hate myself so much”.

The self-criticism reached such a point that Berman interrupted Ma, saying, “Mr. Ma, I have no doubt how sorry you are.”

“I’m not asking for your blood,” the judge said before urging Ma to stop dwelling on his crimes and focus on how he could succeed in the future.

Prosecutors said Ma’s fraud convinced a bank to approve and disburse more than $800,000 in loan funds for one of Ma’s companies, although the money was frozen during the investigation. They said another loan of $650,000 was approved and a loan advance of $10,000 was provided.

In a statement Thursday, U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said Ma committed his crimes days after Congress authorized billions of dollars to help small businesses affected by the pandemic.

“Muge Ma saw it as an opportunity to get rich by asking for millions of dollars in funds to pay salaries to hundreds of employees who never existed,” Williams said.

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