Wenham man charged with Covid-19 pandemic fraud scheme

Wednesday July 13, 2022

BOSTON – A Wenham man was charged on Thursday, June 30 in connection with a scheme to obtain Paycheck Protection Program funds made available under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act by submitting false applications.

James Joseph Cohen, 59, was charged and has agreed to plead guilty to one count of bank fraud. A plea hearing has not yet been scheduled.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, between April 2020 and September 2021, Cohen submitted six false applications to financial institutions and to the Small Business Administration to obtain pandemic-related relief funds on behalf of companies that he controlled. In the applications, it is alleged that Cohen falsely misstated the revenues of the companies, the persons employed, or amounts paid to those employees in the 12-month period preceding the application. In total, Cohen is alleged to have fraudulently obtained approximately $1.2 million in pandemic relief funds based upon these false submissions. The charge of bank fraud provides a sentence of up to 30 years in prison, five years of supervised release and a fine of up to $1 million or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater. 

On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. The Task Force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud by, among other methods, augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts.

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