DC man who attempted to steal more than $31M in COVID-19 relief funds gets 10-year sentence

WASHINGTO — A Washington, D.C., man was sentenced Tuesday to 10 years in prison for attempting to steal more than $31 million in COVID-19 relief funds and successfully stealing nearly $2.4 million.

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The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia announced the sentencing in a news release, detailing 31-year-old Elias Eldabbagh’s scheme to steal the CARES Act funds and his laundering of the proceeds.

The funds Eldabbagh successfully stole included $2,385,000 facilitated through Paycheck Protection Program loans and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, the office stated.

According to WUSA, Eldabbagh pleaded guilty on April 8 to wire fraud and laundering the proceeds of the wire fraud scheme. All told, he was accused of applying for at least 25 PPP loans and submitting at least four false EIDL applications totaling nearly $1 million. All of the fraudulent applications were submitted between July 2020 and May 2021, the TV station reported.

“This defendant shamelessly took advantage of a global health crisis to create his own get-rich scheme at the expense of the government’s COVID relief programs,” U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves stated.

“He stole more than $2.3 million – and tried to collect many millions more – that was targeted for small businesses and employees struggling to get by. While others were suffering, this defendant was draining government money to purchase a Tesla, invest in speculative stock options and cryptocurrency, and cover rent, hotels, dog boarding and other personal expenses. Today’s sentence holds him accountable for these crimes and demonstrates our resolve to prosecute those who cheat government programs,” Graves added.

Prosecutors argued that Eldabbagh used a stolen identity to disguise ownership of Alias Systems LLC and used that same stolen identity to submit most of the applications. He also used stolen identities, stolen tax returns and stolen financial records from a Washington D.C. consulting company, WUSA reported.

According to the TV station, Eldabbagh doctored the stolen documents to appear to be tax returns and payroll records of his company, resulting in the successful embezzlement of the nearly $2.4 million in PPP and EIDL funds.

“Elias Eldabbagh is facing the consequences of shamelessly stealing an identity and trying to steal tens of millions of dollars of taxpayer money that the CARES Act provided for legitimate business owners and employees during a time of national crisis,” IRS-Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Darrell Waldon stated.

“Although he succeeded in fraudulently receiving nearly $2.4 million to pursue an extravagant lifestyle, it was short-lived due to the efforts of our IRS-CI special agents and law enforcement partners,” he added.