A Minnesota man has been sentenced to five years in prison for attempting to defraud a COVID relief program of almost $10 million.
In a press release, the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the District of Minnesota announced a 60-month prison sentence for Aditya Raj Sharma after he “fraudulently applied for” roughly $9.6 million from the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program and “fraudulently obtained and misappropriated more than $1.7 million.”
Sharma pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in July 2021 and was sentenced to five years in prison last week. In addition to that sentence, he will also serve two years of “supervised release” and must restitute the $1.7 million he was erroneously granted.
The 47-year-old resident of Maple Grove was previously the CEO and president of Crosscode Inc., a software development company he founded, but was ousted by the board of directors in November 2019. During the pandemic, from May to July 2020, Sharma created three new technology companies, and from April to August 2020 he sent in 16 separate PPP loan applications rife with “fabricated supporting records.”
“[He] made false statements about the number of employees he had and the amount of payroll expenses he incurred, and made false statements about the relevant corporate entities and intended use of the loan proceeds,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. “Sharma also applied for one of his fraudulent loans in the name of his wife without her knowledge or approval.”
Upon receiving $1,773,600 from PPP lenders who approved three applications, Sharma misappropriated the money to “pay off unrelated legal debts, fund new business ventures, transfer approximately $14,000 to a financial account in India, and pay for home improvements, including landscaping and the installation of a $64,300 backyard pool at his residence,” according to the press release.
The FBI found approximately $675,000 of the fraudulently obtained PPP funds in various bank accounts Sharma operated. That amount has now been turned back over to the U.S. government.