A Sussex County man was recently charged by Federal officials who claim he fraudulently obtained $5.6 million in loans distributed under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
The PPP funding, allocated by Congress to the Small Business Administration to help suffering small businesses, was acquired by Newton-based Azhar Sarwar Rana, who was charged with one count of bank fraud and one count of money laundering.
Rana was arrested Dec. 12 after booking a same-day flight to Pakistan.
Fraudulent PPP Loan Application
Rana allegedly submitted a fraudulent PPP loan application to a lender on behalf of a corporation known as Azhard Sarwar Rana LLC, which was purportedly in the real estate development industry.
Investigators noted payroll and tax information seemed falsified, with internally inconsistent listings of company employees.
Additionally, New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development records found the company paid no wages in 2019 and minimal wages in 2020, with most of those wages paid to individuals with incorrect Social Security numbers.
Use of Fraudulent Funds and Potential Penalties
After presenting the allegedly misrepresented informations to a lender, Rana was able to acquired $5.6 million in federal COVID-19 emergency relief funds.
Rana then used the PPP funding for a variety of personal uses and expenses. Alleged uses included investing millions on the stock market, making payments to a luxury car dealership, and sending hundreds of thousands of dollars to Pakistani bank accounts.
The count of bank fraud carries a maximum potential penalty of 30 years year in prison and a $1 million fine, or twice the gross gain to the defendant or gross loss to the victim, whichever is greater; the count of money laundering carries a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain to the defendant or gross loss to the victim, whichever is greater.
As of Dec. 22, the cumulative number of coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 440,336 with 4,686 total new cases reported and 104 new deaths, bringing that total to 16,418. The state listed probable deaths at 1,908, bringing the overall total to 18,326. The number of confirmed deaths for the day is the first time it has topped 100 since June 3.
For North Jersey counties, Hudson had a total of 401 new cases, Bergen 396 new cases, Essex 309 new cases, Passaic 227 new cases, Morris 180 new cases, Sussex 80 new cases and Warren 37 cases.
State officials noted 59 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,100, followed by Bergen at 2,001, Hudson with 1,503, Passaic at 1,261, Morris at 764, Sussex at 167 and Warren County at 166.
In regards to probable deaths, Bergen has 256, Essex has 239, Hudson has 161, Morris at 170, Passaic at 146, Sussex has 42 and Warren has 13.
The daily rate of infections from those tested as of Dec. 17 was 10.8%; by region, the rate was 8.9% in the North, 10.4% in the Central region and 14.2% in the South. The state is no longer using serology tests as health officials explained those results show a past presence of the disease as well as a current one.
As for the rate of transmission, it decreased to 0.98 from 0.99 the day before. Officials have continually cited transmission rate and positivity rate as health data they rely on to track how the coronavirus is being contained in New Jersey, guiding them in determining when restrictions have to be tightened or lifted.
Officials reported 3,735 patients were hospitalized; by region, there were 1,657 in the North, 1,206 in the Central and 872 in the South.
Of those hospitalized, 740 are in intensive care units and 492 on ventilators. While 250 patients were discharged, 378 were admitted.
Essex Tops County Count
Essex has the most cumulative cases in the state with 44,318, followed by Bergen at 43,707, Middlesex at 41,169, Hudson at 40,406, Passaic at 37,846, Union at 34,668, Ocean at 29,274, Monmouth at 28,699, Camden at 26,272, Burlington at 18,945, Morris at 18,488, Mercer at 17,625, Gloucester at 12,821, Somerset at 11,659, Atlantic at 10,962, Cumberland at 7,024, Sussex at 3,877, Warren at 3,508, Hunterdon at 3,404, Salem at 2,429 and Cape May at 2,182.
Another 1,083 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.
In regards to cases related to in-school transmissions, a total of 98 outbreaks involving 428 cases have been reported in 19 of the 21 counties in the Garden State, with 10 new outbreaks involving 40 cases recorded in the last week. For North Jersey, Bergen County has 18 confirmed outbreaks with 86 cases, Passaic County has four confirmed outbreaks with 23 cases, Warren County has four confirmed outbreaks with nine cases, Sussex County has three confirmed outbreaks with seven cases and Hudson County has two confirmed outbreaks with 10 cases.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 421 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 10,308 of the cases, broken down between 4,815 residents and 5,493 staff.
Cumulatively, 1,124 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 28,932 residents and 18,245 staff, for a total of 47,177 cases.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 7,443 on Dec. 22. The facilities are reporting to the state 7,186 residents deaths and 124 staff deaths.