Couple charged with COVID-19 loan fraud scheme


Date: June 30, 2023


A New Jersey and Texas man and woman were arrested in Texas on charges related to fraudulently obtaining Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) totaling approximately $790,000, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced today.

Diana Valteri and Edmond Haxhillari, of Sparta, New Jersey, and Cypress, Texas, are charged by complaint with one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering. Both are scheduled to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jessica S. Allen in Newark federal court on July 7, 2023.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

Valteri and Haxhillari are a married couple who from June through August 2020, participated in a fraudulent scheme to receive $790,000 in COVID-19 emergency relief loans and cash advances meant for distressed small businesses under the EIDL program. Valteri and Haxhillari submitted fraudulent loan applications on behalf of several businesses that purported to have employees and revenue, but were actually shell companies with no actual business operations. After receiving the EIDL funds based on their fraud, Valteri and Haxhillari diverted the proceeds for their own personal gain.

The wire fraud charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, and the money laundering charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. Each charge also carries a maximum fine of $250,000, or twice the gross gain to the defendants or gross loss to the victim, whichever is greatest.

U.S. Attorney Sellinger credited special agents of IRS – Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Tammy Tomlins; special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge James E. Dennehy; special agents of the Social Security Administration, Office of the Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Sharon MacDermott, and special agents from the Small Business Administration, Office of the Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Amaleka McCall-Brathwaite, Eastern Regional Office, with the investigation leading to the charges.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Fatime Meka Cano of the Economic Crimes Unit in Newark.

Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice's National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form.

The charges and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.