In July 2021, Shalom Ayotunde, 39, was convicted on charges of passport fraud, false claim to U.S. citizenship, wire fraud, and making a false statement to a financial institution. Judge Amos L. Mazzant III sentenced Ayotunde on Thursday and ordered him to pay more than $1 million in restitution, per the DOJ.
Prosecutors said Ayotunde had provided false information on a passport application in June 2018 indicating that he was American. He also acted as a “money mule” for fraudulent activity and conspired in “business email compromise schemes.” Ayotunde is guilty of receiving or attempting to receive approximately $800,000 in stolen funds from businesses, the government stated.
Ayotunde, who was indicted by a grand jury in November 2020, had conspired with others to swindle more than $1 million from the PPP after providing false information on loan applications. Camelia Lopez, an assistant U.S. attorney, prosecuted Ayotunde in the Eastern District of Texas.
The PPP was a federal program designed to assist businesses in the wake of financial losses caused by governmental mandates during the COVID-19 pandemic. Though new applications ended last May, the loans issued through the program are forgivable.
In December, a grand jury in Houston indicted four more suspects in a different scheme to defraud $35 million from the PPP. A total of 15 people have either been indicted or convicted in the conspiracy.
There have been numerous accusations of criminal activity related to relief programs set up during the pandemic. The DOJ encourages the public to report suspected fraud on its National Center for Disaster Fraud complaint website.
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Hayden Sparks is a senior reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State. He has coached competitive speech and debate and has been involved in politics since a young age. One of Hayden's favorite quotes is by Sam Houston: "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may."