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A former Oregon dentist was sentenced to federal prison today for attempting to steal more $170 million in Covid-relief funds and illegally distributing thousands of doses of prescription drugs.
Salwan Wesam Adjaj, 44, of West Linn, Oregon, was sentenced to 70 months in federal prison and three years’ supervised release. He was also ordered to pay more than $10.5 million in restitution to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and multiple private lenders.
“Salwan Adjaj’s crimes showed both his indifference to those enduring the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and his disregard for the health and safety of those to whom he unlawfully dispensed prescription drugs. We appreciate all the investigative agencies that worked diligently to uncover Adjaj’s crimes and build the two criminal cases that brought him to justice,” said Natalie Wight, U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon.
“Our investigative efforts will expose criminal activity that spans SBA’s programs,” said Weston King, Western Region Special Agent in Charge of the SBA Office of Inspector General (SBA OIG). “This sentence demonstrates that those who defraud the nation’s vital economic programs will be held accountable. I want to thank the U.S. Department of Justice and our law enforcement partners for their dedication and pursuit of justice.”
“The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration aggressively pursues those who misuse IRS online systems to further fraudulent schemes and those who fraudulently obtain relief from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act and its Paycheck Protection Program,” said J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. “We appreciate the efforts of our law enforcement partners and the United States Attorney’s Office to ensure this criminal activity is held to account.”
“Salwan Adjaj executed an elaborate ruse to take advantage of federal emergency assistance in a time when so many businesses were struggling to stay afloat. Even after several fraudulent loan applications were denied, Adjaj’s greed grew. He made up businesses, lied about employees and in the end stole more than 11 million dollars of Covid relief funds,” said Kieran L. Ramsey, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Portland Field Office. “The FBI and our partners will continue to find those who commit pandemic-related fraud and hold them accountable for their crimes.”
According to court documents, beginning no later than September 2020 and continuing until at least May 2021, Adjaj submitted dozens of fraudulent loan applications to SBA in an attempt to obtain Economic Impact Disaster Loan (EIDL) and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds. The EIDL and PPP programs were among several economic relief programs originally authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES). They enabled SBA to issue low-interest loans to small businesses adversely impacted by the pandemic and associated mitigation measures.
Adjaj used the names and employer identification numbers (EIN) of fictitious business entities on his fraudulent applications. He further provided false information about the business start dates, number of employees, and locations, and the identities of the purported applicants and business owners. Most of the fraudulent applications were submitted in other peoples’ names, but with Adjaj’s personal residence as the business mailing address. In the spring of 2021, Adjaj purchased a collection of stolen identities online and began using the personally identifiable information acquired to register dozens of straw companies and obtain additional EIN.
After SBA rejected most of Adjaj’s initial EIDL applications, he began focusing primarily on the PPP program as well as on the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF), a pandemic relief program authorized by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to support restaurants, bars, and other food- and drink-related businesses. Adjaj had substantially greater success stealing PPP and RRF funds than he did EIDL. In May 2021, Adjaj submitted three RRF applications for restaurants allegedly located Sarasota, Miami, and Daytona Beach, Florida. Like his fraudulent EIDL and PPP applications, Adjaj’s RRF applications contained false business information and all listed his personal residence as the business mailing address.
In total, Adjaj submitted more than 100 fraudulent Covid-relief program applications, stole the identities of more than 40 victims, and caused the SBA to pay out more than $11.5 million in loans, grants, and associated lender fees. Adjaj used the stolen funds to speculate in stocks and cryptocurrencies through online brokerage accounts. He continued this speculation with stolen funds even after his arrest and purported cooperation with the government.
For at least four years prior to engaging in Covid-relief program fraud, Adjaj also knowingly and intentionally distributed and possessed with intent to distribute thousands of doses of prescription drugs. In August 2020, investigators from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office searched Adjaj’s dental practice and home and found a wide array of Schedule III and Schedule IV controlled substances, including Tramadol, anabolic steroids, injectable testosterone, Phendimetrazine, Diazepam, Alprazolam (Xanax), Lorazepam, Carisoprodol (Soma), and Zolpidem.
Further investigation by DEA and the Oregon Board of Dentistry (OBOD) revealed that Adjaj used his position as a dentist and DEA registration numbers to obtain some of the drugs acquired from a pharmaceutical manufacturer. Adjaj obtained additional drugs, including steroids and human growth hormone, from the dark web. All the drugs acquired were distributed by Adjaj without a legitimate medical purpose. Shortly after searching his residence and dental practice, the OBOD issued an emergency order suspending Adjaj’s dental license.
On October 14, 2021, Adjaj was charged by criminal complaint with aggravated identity theft and wire fraud. Later, on July 13, 2022, a federal grand jury in Portland indicted him on the same charges.
On June 23, 2022, Adjaj was charged by criminal information with distribution and possession with intent to distribute controlled substances. Three weeks later, on July 13, 2022, he pleaded guilty to the single drug charge.
On September 13, 2022, Adjaj pleaded guilty to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.
Source: U.S. District Attorney for Oregon