Poconos hotel co-owner could face 120 years in prison for PPP loan fraud allegations

The Howard Johnson off Route 611 in Bartonsville.
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A business owner from the Poconos has been indicted on bank fraud and money laundering charges linked to the small business relief-focused Paycheck Protection Program.

The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced Tuesday that Nazim Hassam of Bartonsville had been indicted on allegations of making false statements on multiple applications for PPP loans.

Hassam was previously indicted alongside two businesses he co-owns — the Stroudsburg-based Pocono Plaza Inn, and Om Sri Sai, Inc., which owned and operated a Howard Johnson hotel located in Bartonsville — on felony sex and drug trafficking charges in 2019.

Hassam was charged alongside the Howard Johnson general manager Faizal Bhimani and convicted on October 23, 2020 following an intensive six-year investigation into sex trafficking, drug trafficking, and violent crime connected to the Black P Stones gang in Monroe County. Multiple agencies, including the FBI, the Stroud Area Regional Police Department and the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office were involved in the investigation, which eventually expanded beyond the gang.

Related: Pocono hotels provide backdrop in 'precedent setting' federal trafficking case

As part of the application process for PPP loans, Hassam was asked whether he or the companies he was applying for were under indictment; Hassam answered "no."

The latest indictment alleges that Hassam fraudulently obtained $89,308 in PPP loans, and proceeded to conduct unlawful monetary transactions with the bulk of those funds.

The Internal Revenue Service investigated the case, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean A. Camoni is prosecuting.

Under federal law, Hassam could face up to 120 years of imprisonment, a term of supervised release following his sentence, and a fine.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, the prosecution is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces investigation. OCDETF "identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs and transnational criminal organizations" across the country utilizing federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies partnered with prosecutors.

Prior to the establishment of the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force, the Department of Justice had charged nearly 600 defendants with crimes involving over $600 million in COVID-related fraud across 56 federal districts around the country. As of May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the task force to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud.

Those with any information concerning allegations of attempted fraud linked to 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.

This article originally appeared on Pocono Record: Bartonsville biz owner could face 120 years for PPP fraud

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