In McDonough, Georgia, Bernard Okojie, 41, has been sentenced to 64 months in federal prison for leading a conspiracy that stole nearly $2 million in COVID-19 small business relief funding. Okojie was convicted at trial in March on charges of Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud, Wire Fraud, and Money Laundering Conspiracy, according to Jill E. Steinberg, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood ordered Okojie to pay $1,946,283 in restitution and to serve three years of supervised release after his prison term. There is no parole in the federal system.
Okojie’s scheme involved filing 46 fraudulent applications for Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) and Paycheck Protection Program loans using information for non-existent companies. These applications sought over $4.2 million in COVID-19 relief funds between April 2020 and May 2021. Okojie personally received nearly $2 million in funding or was paid by others who fraudulently obtained the funding. He then conspired to launder the proceeds to conceal their source.
The fraudulently obtained funds were used to buy a home, vehicles, luxury shopping trips to Versace, personal investments, and even a pet toy poodle. Additionally, Okojie was caught attempting to leave the United States with nearly $40,000 in cash.
FBI Savannah’s Senior Supervisory Special Agent Will Clarke emphasized the seriousness of Okojie’s actions, stating that stealing government funds would not be tolerated, and prosecuting PPP fraud remains a top priority for law enforcement. SBA OIG’s Eastern Region Special Agent-in-Charge Amaleka McCall-Brathwaite echoed this sentiment, emphasizing the dedication of law enforcement partners in ensuring justice is served.
The case was thoroughly investigated by the FBI and the Small Business Administration Office of Inspector General. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jennifer A. Stanley and Matthew A. Josephson on behalf of the United States.