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Ithaca man guilty of $140,000 PPP loan fraud

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An Ithaca man, 60-year-old Ejembi Onah, was convicted on Tuesday for fraudulently obtaining over $140,000 in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, intended to support struggling businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

U.S. State Attorney Carla B. Freedman announced Onah’s conviction, revealing he faced two counts of wire fraud and three counts of transactions in criminally derived property. Court evidence indicated Onah provided false details in two separate PPP loan applications submitted in June 2020, including fabricated tax returns and misleading data about his purported nanotechnology business’s payroll and employee numbers.

After securing the loans, Onah misused the funds on personal expenditures, such as settling home rent arrears, leasing a high-end vehicle, and covering everyday living expenses.

The PPP initiative was designed to offer forgivable loans to eligible business owners impacted by the pandemic’s economic downturn. Set to be sentenced on February 15, 2024, Onah could face up to 20 years in prison for each wire fraud count and up to 10 years for each money laundering charge.

Additional penalties include potential parole for three years, repayment to the defrauded parties, and fines of up to $250,000 per charge. The court further mandated Onah to forfeit over $240,000, covering both the fraudulently obtained loan amount and specific sizable transactions he made.