Two 66-year-old brothers pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday to making false statements to a financial institution in separate schemes to defraud the federal government of more than $2 million in pandemic relief funds.
Caesar Oskan, of San Rafael, and Ester Ozkar (also known as Eser Ozkay), of Novato, admitted as part of their guilty pleas that between March 2020 and June 2020 they each submitted multiple separate fraudulent applications for Economic Injury Disaster Loans and Paycheck Protection Program loans, in a scheme to defraud the Small Business Administration and the banks handling the paycheck loans. Both loan programs are designed to help businesses survive during the Covid-19 pandemic.
In his written plea agreement, Oskan admitted that he obtained $1,006,004 in fraudulent paycheck loans and $713,500 in fraudulent disaster loans and advances. In Ozkar’s plea agreement, he admitted that he obtained $474,132 in fraudulent paycheck loans and $9,000 in disaster advances.
“Pandemic relief funds are limited and intended to save legitimate struggling businesses from failing,” said Acting United States Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds in a press release issued Wednesday by the Department of Justice. “Individuals, like these two brothers, who treat these pools of relief funds as their personal bank accounts deserve to be vigorously prosecuted.”
“Honest and law-abiding citizens are fed up with the likes of those who use deceit and fraud to line their pockets with money intended to help businesses affected by the pandemic,” said Michael Daniels, acting special agent in charge of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation. “Those individuals who engage in this type of financial fraud should know they will not go undetected and will be held accountable.”
Each defendant faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
In addition to the U.S. Department of Justice, the case involved the efforts of the IRS, FBI, Secret Service, Treasury Department, Small Business Administration Office of Inspector General, Federal Reserve and Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection.