Former bank vice president convicted of COVID relief loan fraud

The federal courthouse in Brooklyn, where Anuli Okeke, former vice president of Popular Bank, was convicted of defrauding COVID relief programs. Eagle file photo by Rob Abruzzese

Anuli Okeke, a former vice president and New York branch manager of Popular Bank, was convicted Wednesday by a federal jury in Brooklyn of all counts of conspiracy to commit fraud banking and electronic, electronic fraud, bank fraud. fraud and money laundering conspiracy.

Okeke led a scheme to defraud the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, obtaining millions of dollars during the COVID-19 pandemic. The verdict came after a weeklong trial before U.S. District Judge Frederic Block. Okeke faces up to 30 years in prison.

“While the global pandemic has caused tremendous economic and personal harm to scores of people, the defendant abused her position of trust in a bank to steal millions of dollars from programs designed to keep small businesses running. flow and wage workers,” said U.S. Attorney Breon Peace.

The CARES Act was enacted to provide emergency financial assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic. It allocated funds for forgivable loans to small businesses through the PPP and low-interest financing through the EIDL program. These programs aimed to support job retention and cover specific expenses such as payroll, rent and utilities.

At trial, it was proven that Okeke and his co-conspirators fabricated loan and tax documents to steal funds from the PPP and EIDL programs. Okeke knowingly submitted false applications and took kickbacks from the loan proceeds. She also submitted her own fraudulent EIDL loan application and collected unauthorized commissions from legitimate PPP beneficiaries.

Handwritten notes found on her desk revealed how aware and proud Okeke was of the income earned from this project. Prior to his sentencing, seven co-conspirators pleaded guilty to wire and bank fraud conspiracy related to the fraud.

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