A Nevada-based doctor and his office manager wife are facing charges for an alleged fraudulent scheme involving approximately $1.3 million in COVID-19 pandemic relief loans. The loans were procured through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), as unveiled by the indictment unsealed yesterday.
Kofi Sarfo, 58, a medical doctor and owner and president of Vista Medical Associates, a Las Vegas medical practice, and his wife, Rose Sarfo, 54, the office manager and treasurer of the practice, are implicated in the case. The couple allegedly conspired to submit false loan applications to obtain EIDL and PPP pandemic relief funds. However, instead of utilizing the funds for their business, as per their loan application statements, the Sarfos are accused of using the funds to invest in stocks and cryptocurrency.
The charges include one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and four counts of wire fraud against both individuals. Additionally, Kofi Sarfo faces a separate charge of money laundering. If convicted, they could face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and for each count of wire fraud. Moreover, Kofi Sarfo could face an additional penalty of 10 years in prison for the money laundering charge.
Small businesses around the country, particularly in the healthcare sector, should take note of this incident as a cautionary tale. It highlights the need for full transparency when applying for government relief funds and the consequences of fraudulent activity.
The case is being investigated by the FBI Las Vegas Field Office, with Trial Attorney Kyle Crawford of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section leading the prosecution.
The Department of Justice established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force in May 2021 to consolidate the resources of various agencies and improve efforts to investigate and prevent pandemic-related fraud. The task force is designed to identify, prosecute, and thwart the most egregious domestic and international criminal actors and assist agencies tasked with administering relief programs. The objective is to prevent fraud by integrating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to reveal fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing insights gained from prior enforcement efforts.
For more information on the department’s response to the pandemic and related fraud, visit www.justice.gov/coronavirus. Small business owners are encouraged to stay informed about potential fraud schemes related to pandemic relief funds.
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