Florida Man Pleads Guilty to Stealing Millions in COVID Relief Money through a Synthetic Identification Scheme
Hasan Brown conspired to steal over $20 million in CARES Act funding
The Inspector General for the Social Security Administration (SSA), Gail S. Ennis, announced on Tuesday, the guilty plea of Hasan Hakim Brown, in the Southern District of Florida. Brown pleaded guilty to charges of bank fraud in an Information filed in April 2021. He is scheduled for sentencing on September 9, 2021.
According to court records, from about January 2017 through August 2020, Brown and his co-conspirators used complex computer data storage and virtualization machines to manufacture synthetic identities, combining the personal information of real people (such as stolen Social Security numbers) with fraudulent information, such as false names and dates of birth. They used the identities to falsely and fraudulently open credit card and bank accounts for those identities. They also registered shell companies with the Florida Division of Corporations ("Sunbiz"), using the companies as part of the scheme. The companies appeared to be associated with various service industries such as, yachting, technology, and landscaping, but conducted no legitimate business and had no legitimate employees.
In or around May or June 2020, after the enactment of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act (March 2020), Brown and his co-conspirators used their synthetic identities and associated shell companies to fraudulently apply for financial assistance under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), one of the relief provisions of the CARES Act. Brown and his associates applied for and received between $20 and $25 million in PPP relief. The money was paid to companies registered to Brown and his co-conspirators, as well as to companies registered to synthetic identities that Brown and his co-conspirators controlled.
“In addition to their egregious fraud scheme beginning in 2017, Brown and his co-conspirators stole PPP money intended to help a population struggling with the economic effects of the coronavirus,” said Rodregas Owens, Special Agent in Charge of the SSA Office of the Inspector General, Atlanta Field Division. “We will continue to uphold the integrity of the Social Security number against this type of fraud.”
“This multifaceted scheme not only harmed and misused the benefits of the PPP and the CARES Act, but it also the harmed the integrity of the Social Security number as an identifier,” said Inspector General Ennis. “I want to thank all of our law enforcement partners for their remarkable efforts in this complex investigation. I also thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office for bringing this individual to justice.”
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Office of the Inspector General (OIG), U.S. Secret Service-Miami, Small Business Administration OIG, Federal Bureau of Investigation-Miami Field Office, U.S. Postal Service OIG, and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration jointly investigated this case with SSA OIG.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Brooke Watson is prosecuting the case and Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicole S. Grosnof is handling the asset forfeiture.
Members of the public are encouraged to report suspected Social Security fraud to the OIG at https://oig.ssa.gov.