Oregon dentist pleads guilty to stealing millions in COVID-19 relief loans

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — On Sept. 13, a former West Linn dentist pleaded guilty to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in federal court to stealing nearly $11.5 million in funds allocated to the COVID-19 relief.

Salwan Adjaj submitted multiple fraudulent loan applications to the Small Business Administration from September 2020 to at least May 2021, federal prosecutors say, and stole funds from the Economic Impact Loan and Paycheck Protection Program that were authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act which was intended to support small businesses affected by the pandemic.

Adjaj falsified certain details to impersonate several businesses in need of assistance, such as names, employer identification numbers, start dates and locations, prosecutors said. Although most of those requests were sent under other people’s names, he often registered his home address as the company’s mailing address, authorities said. Each application was reportedly submitted from Adjaj’s workplace IP address.

The SBA rejected most of its EIDL applications, so Adjaj reportedly focused on the PPP program and the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, which provides economic relief to businesses in the food and beverage industry. In May 2021, he submitted requests on behalf of fictitious restaurants he believed were located in Florida, prosecutors said.

Adjaj was formally charged with a criminal complaint of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft on October 14, 2021. Two months later, on December 14, he was arrested for an alleged violation of provisional release. The following day, he received an order stating that he would be detained pending further legal proceedings.

Additionally, Adjaj pleaded guilty to illegally distributing thousands of controlled substances in a separate criminal case on July 13. The former dentist confessed to using his profession to access the substances, prosecutors said.

He could be sentenced to a maximum of 22 years in prison, receive a $250,000 fine and a three-year supervised release for his COVID-19 relief fraud case. For his drug offenses, Adjaj faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, a $500,000 fine and three years of probation.

U.S. District Court Judge Michael W. Mosman will sentence Adjaj for the two federal cases on Dec. 6. As stated in his plea agreement, Adjaj will compensate his crimes against the SBA and victim lenders with no less than $10.5 million.

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