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Owners of Grand Rapids trucking company plead guilty to fraud

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Posted at 5:45 PM, Jun 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-22 17:45:02-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The owners of DMR Transportation, which is based in Grand Rapids, have pled guilty in federal court to conspiring to commit bank fraud in connection with a $290,855 loan under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). They are Semsi Salja and Anes Suhonjic.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Business Act was enacted by Congress in December 2020. This authorized second-draw Paycheck Protection Program loans to borrowers that had previously received the loan. Borrowers were eligible for the second-draw if they experienced a revenue reduction of 25% or more in 2020 compared to 2019.

According to the Department of Justice, DMR knowingly and certified that it had the required 25% reduction gross in its second-draw Paycheck Protection Program loan application. The company also submitted quarterly balance sheets that were falsified, along with other false financial records. The records and application were signed by Salja and Suhonjic. In September 2021, the company sought forgiveness of its second-draw loan by falsely certifying that the loan proceeds had been used to pay eligible business expenses. However, DMR had actually held the money in reserve.

Salja and Suhonjic could face a maximum sentence of five years in prison. In a related civil case, Salja, Suhonjic, and DMR have agreed to pay $1 million under the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act (FIRREA).

“The PPP involved a limited pool of funds to help small businesses wracked by the disruption of a global pandemic,” said United States Attorney Mark Totten. “By fraudulently obtaining a second PPP loan, DMR took, for itself, hundreds of thousands of dollars that could have been used to help deserving companies. My office will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute these cases.”

“Today’s guilty plea and FIRREA civil penalties hold the defendants responsible for their roles in fraudulently obtaining a second loan under a federal relief program created to assist small businesses who were struggling as a result of the pandemic,” said Special Agent in Charge Kathy A. Enstorm of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Office of Inspector General (FDIC-OIG). “The FDIC-OIG remains committed to working with our law enforcement partners to hold those accountable who seek to abuse such programs and undermine the integrity of our nation’s banks.”

“By illegally taking additional money from the Paycheck Protection Program, these defendants harmed the owners and employees of small businesses struggling through the pandemic,” said James A. Tarasca, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Michigan. “The FBI is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to investigate and hold accountable anyone taking advantage of a global pandemic to line their own pockets.”

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