A man was arrested after allegedly spending $5 million in stolen COVID-19 relief on Ferrari, Bentley, and Lamborghini sports cars

A black lamborghini sports car with the door open
A black Lamborghini, one of the cars federal agents seized from the suspect.

  • A man was arrested Friday on charges related to fraudulently obtaining and spending $5 million in PPP loans.
  • Officials said the man gave banks falsified documents to apply for loans for four “sham businesses.”
  • They said he spent some of the money on Ferrari, Bentley, and Lamborghini sports cars, which were seized by federal agents.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A man from Irvine, California, was arrested on Friday over charges that include illegally obtaining $5 million in COVID-19 relief and spending it on sports cars, according to the Department of Justice.

Mustafa Qadiri, 38, is accused of fraudulently receiving money through the Payment Protection Program by applying for the loan under the guise of “sham businesses.” His charges include bank fraud, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and money laundering.

According to the indictment, Qadiri applied for the PPP loans in May and June of 2020. He submitted falsified documents to three different banks, claiming to operate four businesses in Orange County, none of which are currently in operation. He provided the banks with false employee records, tampered bank account balances, and fake tax returns.

Read more: Fraudulent unemployment claims have cost the US tens of billions of dollars since the pandemic began. Congress and the Biden administration need to crack down on this abuse.

For one of the loans, the Justice Department said he used another person’s name and social security number.

His loan applications were approved and the banks transferred about $5 million into his accounts, the indictment said.

The Justice Department said he allegedly used the “fraudulently obtained” loans “for his own personal benefit, including for expenses prohibited under the requirements of the PPP program, such as the purchase of luxury vehicles, lavish vacations, and the payment of his personal expenses.”

Ferrari, Bentley, and Lamborghini sports cars that Qadiri allegedly bought with the loans were seized by federal agents.

PPP loans were implemented as a coronavirus relief measure and were intended to encourage small businesses to keep their employees on payroll during the economic fallout of the pandemic. The loans did not have to be paid back as long as they met certain spending criteria.

“Businesses must use PPP loan proceeds for payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities,” the Justice Department said.

Charges have been brought against multiple people related to fraudulently obtaining PPP loans.

In a similar case, the Justice Department said Friday a man from Connecticut was arrested over charges that allege he fraudulently obtained $2.9 million in PPP loans and spent them on expensive cars, including to pay off a Porsche Panamera Turbo and to purchase both a Mercedes and BMW.

“Congress authorized the Paycheck Protection Program to help small businesses and their employees withstand a devastating pandemic, not so individual recipients can illegally reap a financial windfall,” Acting U.S. Attorney Leonard C Boyle said.

Have a news tip? Contact this reporter at kvlamis@insider.com.

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The Trump administration gave more than $850,000 in PPP loans to prominent anti-vaccine groups

Anti-vaccine protests US
An anti-vaccination fundraiser.

  • Top anti-vaccine advocacy groups received PPP funding from the Trump administration, The Washington Post reported.
  • American distrust in the safety of COVID-19 vaccinations continues to pose a threat to public health.
  • K. “Vish” Viswanath, a professor of health communication at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told Insider that anti-vaccine groups are “likely to perpetuate the adverse impacts of the pandemic.” 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Five top anti-vaccine advocacy organizations that have spread medical misinformation throughout the COVID-19 pandemic received funding from the Trump administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), The Washington Post reported Monday.

The loans from the Small Business Administration totaled more than $850,000, according to the report.

K. “Vish” Viswanath, a professor of health communication at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told Insider that to call the loans ironic “doesn’t do justice to my feelings.” He said anti-vaccine groups are “likely to perpetuate the adverse impacts of the pandemic.” 

The groups that reportedly received PPP funding were the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), Mercola Com Health Resources LLC, Informed Consent Action Network, Children’s Health Defense Co., and the Tenpenny Integrative Medical Center, The Post reported, citing an exclusive report from the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a UK-based advocacy group that fights hate and misinformation online. 

“Lending money to these organizations so they can prosper is a sickening use of taxpayer money,” Countering Digital Hate CEO Imran Ahmed told The Washington Post. “These groups are actively working to undermine the national COVID vaccination drive, which will create long-term health problems that are felt most acutely in minority communities and low-income neighborhoods.” 

The largest loan – $335,000 – was given to Mercola, a website published by the anti-vaccine activist Joseph Mercola. NewsGuard, a nonprofit that tracks misinformation, reported that the site has “published false claims about standard medical practices such as vaccinations.”

Mercola, a businessman and doctor of osteopathic medicine, is himself a major donor of the NVIC. The Washington Post reported in 2019 that Mercola gave the NVIC $2.9 million, making up roughly 40% of the group’s funding. Mercola has millions of followers on Facebook. 

Amazon has been criticized for including the NVIC in its Amazon Smile program, contributing $40,000 in donations to the group. 

A study released last summer found that vaccines are safer than “almost any other modern medical intervention.” But, as medical misinformation has continued to spread at a dangerous pace on social media amid the pandemic, public health experts have said that distrust for the US government and healthcare system poses a challenge in its rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.

The Pew Research Center said in a December report that about 39% of Americans said they would definitely not, or probably not, get the vaccine. 21% of American adults surveyed said they were “pretty certain” that new information about COVID-19 vaccination would not change their minds.  

Anti-vaccine advocacy groups have played a major role in propagating that distrust, Viswanath said.

Even if these groups qualified for the loans legally – as the Small Business Administration told The Washington Post – it’s a question of whether the loans are “morally” correct, Viswanath said, as they are providing the country with “additional ammunition” to question medical professionals “by exploiting the tremendous scientific achievement of developing the vaccines.” 

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WATCH: How business owners can make the most of PPP

The Paycheck Protection Program is back.

For millions of small business owners still struggling to pay rent and employ workers, the federal government’s forgivable loan program is a lifeline. This round looks a little different than the original that launched in the spring. It’s aimed at even smaller businesses, and provides special funding for the service sector, nonprofits, and under-represented entrepreneurs.

On Tuesday, January 5, Insider hosted a webinar detailing what the $325 billion in funding means for business owners and answered questions live from more than 200 attendees. 

Insider’s entrepreneurship editor Bartie Scott and small business reporter Jennifer Ortakales Dawkins discussed:

  • What’s different between this round of PPP and the first one in the spring
  • Special provisions for service industry companies and under-represented entrepreneurs
  • How to know if you’re eligible
  • What materials you’ll need to apply
  • What we know about the timeline so far
  • The how and why of loan forgiveness 

Watch the full webinar above.

Read the original article on Business Insider