HOUSTON — Five Texas men pleaded guilty Oct. 2 for their roles in a scheme to fraudulently obtain and launder millions of dollars in forgivable Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans that were guaranteed by the Small Business Administration under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

The multiagency investigation that led to the convictions was conducted by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Houston, the Small Business Administration’s Office of Inspector General, the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s Office of Inspector General, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s Office of Inspector General, and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

Muhammad Anis, 55, Nishant Patel, 41, and Harjeet Singh, 49, all of Houston; and Arham Uddin, 27, and Ammas Uddin, 30, both of Richmond, pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas to conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

According to court documents, all five men engaged in a conspiracy to defraud the Small Business Administration and certain PPP lenders by submitting false and fraudulent loan applications. They also helped launder the fraudulently obtained loan funds by supplying co-conspirators with blank, endorsed checks, which were made payable to people posing as employees of the companies that received the loan but were not employees. These fake paychecks were then cashed at check cashing stores that other members of the conspiracy or others controlled.

As part of the scheme, Anis obtained a false and fraudulent loan in the amount of approximately $483,333; Patel obtained a false and fraudulent loan in the amount of approximately $474,993; Singh obtained two false and fraudulent loans for a total of approximately $937,379; Arham Uddin obtained a false and fraudulent loan in the amount of approximately $491,664; and Ammas Uddin obtained a false and fraudulent loan in the amount of approximately $498,415.

They are scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 4, 2024. At that time, each faces up to five years in prison.

In addition to these five, one other person was convicted at trial for his involvement in the scheme and 15 others have pleaded guilty to their involvement.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Rodolfo Ramirez and Kristine Rollinson are prosecuting the cases with trial attorneys Louis Manzo, Della Sentilles, Kate McCarthy and Spencer Ryan of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.

Anyone with information about suspected COVID-19-related fraud or other criminal activity may report it to HSI by emailing the Department of Homeland Security’s S.T.O.P. COVID-19 Fraud Tipline at covid19fraud@dhs.gov.

For more news and information on HSI’s efforts to aggressively investigate COVID-19-related fraud and criminal activity in Southeast Texas follow us on X, formerly known as Twitter, @HSIHouston.

HSI launched Operation Stolen Promise in April 2020 to protect the homeland from the increasing and evolving threat posed by COVID-19-related fraud and criminal activity. Since the operation’s inception, HSI has capitalized upon its unique and expansive federal criminal investigative authorities; its strong intelligence analysis capabilities and resources; its expansive domestic and international footprint; and its robust law enforcement and private sector partnerships to lead the government’s investigative response to pandemic-related crime.

HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’ largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.