Long Island man sentenced to 10 years in prison for sprawling COVID-19 loan fraud


Date: March 15, 2024

Contact: newsroom@ci.irs.gov

Earlier today, at the federal courthouse in Central Islip, Rami Saab, also known as “Rami Hasan,” was sentenced by United States District Judge Gary R. Brown to 10 years in prison for his role as the mastermind of a sprawling conspiracy to fraudulently obtain disaster relief loans amid the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of the sentence he is also required to pay restitution of approximately $9.6 million. Saab pleaded guilty in July 2023 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, stemming from his operation of a yearlong scheme to defraud banks and the Small Business Association (SBA) of millions of dollars’ worth of small business loans under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDL). A second defendant charged in the indictment remains at large.

Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Thomas M. Fattorusso, Special Agent-in-Charge, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (CI), New York, Erin Keegan, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge, Homeland Security Investigations, New York (HSI), and Christopher Gust, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) announced the sentence.

“This defendant used fraud and deceit on an extraordinary scale to exploit government programs designed to keep struggling small businesses afloat during an unprecedented public health crisis,” stated United States Attorney Peace. “Today’s sentence sends a strong message to all those who saw the public response to the COVID-19 pandemic as little more than a get-rich-quick scheme: this Office will find you and prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.”

Mr. Peace expressed his appreciation to the Nassau County Police Department for their assistance on the case.

“Opportunists like Saab continue to victimize the American taxpayer by pulling from benefits they don’t legitimately qualify for just to satisfy their own greed. Saab manipulated the COVID-19 loan program so he could fill his pockets with nearly ten million dollars meant for those who suffered as a result of the pandemic. But now, thanks to strong law enforcement partnerships and an incredible prosecution team, Saab is not only going to spend years behind bars, but he is also required to pay millions in restitution,” said Thomas M. Fattorusso, Special Agent in Charge of IRS CI New York.

“Rami Saab showed a blatant disregard for all legal — and moral — responsibility in the midst of an unprecedented crisis. COVID-19 relief fraud is far from a victimless crime,” said HSI New York acting Special Agent in Charge Erin Keegan. “The defendant not only stole from hardworking taxpayers, but took advantage of a federal program meant to truly help those experiencing tremendous financial difficulties due to the pandemic. Today’s sentencing is the result of outstanding coordination between our law enforcement partners to address COVID-19 related fraud.”

“The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration aggressively pursues those who attempt to abuse the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act and its Paycheck Protection Program, which was created to assist legitimate business owners during the pandemic,” stated acting Special Agent in Charge Christopher Gust. “We appreciate the efforts of our law enforcement partners and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to ensure individuals engaged in criminal activity are held to account.”

As set forth in court filings, between May 2020 and May 2021, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Saab and a network of co-conspirators fraudulently applied for more than $32 million in PPP and EIDL loans on behalf of shell corporations they controlled. Relying on false information and fabricated documentation supplied by Saab and his coconspirators, the SBA and private banks administrating the PPP and EIDL programs granted at least 20 such applications, resulting in the disbursement to Saab and his coconspirators of more than $9.6 million in emergency-relief funds intended for distressed small businesses. Using a web of more than 50 otherwise dormant bank accounts, Saab and his coconspirators laundered the fraud proceeds to conceal their true nature and source, before using the funds for their own self-enrichment, withdrawing large portions of the loan proceeds in cash, and transferring sums to associates overseas in Turkey and elsewhere.

PPP and EIDL provided qualifying small businesses with low-interest loans. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act expanded EIDL to provide economic support to help offset the temporary loss of revenue experienced by businesses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The EIDL payments did not have to be repaid.

The government’s case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Long Island Criminal Division. Assistant United States Attorneys Anthony Bagnuola and Michael Maffei are in charge of the prosecution. Assistant United States Attorney Madeline O’Connor is handling forfeiture matters in the case.

CI is the criminal investigative arm of the IRS, responsible for conducting financial crime investigations, including tax fraud, narcotics trafficking, money-laundering, public corruption, healthcare fraud, identity theft and more. CI special agents are the only federal law enforcement agents with investigative jurisdiction over violations of the Internal Revenue Code, obtaining a more than a 90 percent federal conviction rate. The agency has 20 field offices located across the U.S. and 12 attaché posts abroad.