Chinese man gets over 4 years in prison for pandemic fraud

Apr 20, 2022, 10:14 PM | Updated: Apr 21, 2022, 10:19 am

NEW YORK (AP) — A Chinese man was sentenced to more than four years in prison Thursday after admitting that he fraudulently tried to get $20 million in federal coronavirus-relief funds meant to rescue distressed businesses.

U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman announced the four-year, four-month prison term for Muge Ma at a sentencing hearing in Manhattan.

The judge said the prison term was necessary because of the seriousness of the crimes and the need for others to be warned against abusing government programs meant to help people in a national emergency.

Ma, 38, was arrested in May 2020 by federal authorities who said he had applied to at least five banks to try to get over $20 million in government-guaranteed loans from the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. Both programs were designed for businesses harmed by coronavirus shutdowns.

Authorities said he falsely claimed to be paying hundreds of employees millions of dollars in wages through two companies he controlled. To support the claims, he submitted fraudulent bank, tax, insurance and payroll records and provided banks with links to websites that described the companies as “global,” prosecutors said.

In fact, they said, Ma at the time was working alone out of his $1.5 million Manhattan condominium, falsely claiming that one of his companies was representing New York state and was helping then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo to procure COVID-19 test kits and personal protective equipment for frontline workers.

Ma, a lawful permanent resident jailed since his May 2020 arrest, repeatedly said he was sorry before the sentence was imposed. He came to the U.S. in 2011 on a student visa.

“I love America,” Ma said. “I’m very, very sorry to my country, America.”

Besides decrying jail conditions over the last two years as “dirty, harsh, extremely cruel,” he repeatedly apologized for his crimes and said: “I detest myself so much.”

The self-criticism reached such a point that Berman interrupted Ma, telling him: “Mr. Ma, I don’t have any doubt about how sorry you are.”

“I’m not seeking blood from you,” the judge said before he urged Ma to stop dwelling on his crimes and focus on how he can be successful in the future.

Prosecutors said Ma’s fraud convinced one bank to approve and disburse over $800,000 in loan funds for one of Ma’s companies, although the money was frozen during the investigation. They said another $650,000 in loans had been approved and a $10,000 loan advance had been provided.

In a release Thursday, U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said Ma carried out his crimes within days of Congress authorizing billions of dollars to help small businesses harmed by the pandemic.

“Muge Ma saw it as an opportunity to enrich himself by applying for millions of dollars in funds to pay wages to hundreds of employees that never existed,” Williams said.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


File - People shop at an Apple store in the Westfield Garden State Plaza mall in Paramus, New Jerse...
Associated Press

A key inflation gauge tracked by the Fed slowed in February

The Federal Reserve's favored inflation gauge slowed sharply last month, an encouraging sign in the Fed's yearlong effort to cool price pressures through steadily higher interest rates.
2 days ago
FILE - The OpenAI logo is seen on a mobile phone in front of a computer screen displaying output fr...
Associated Press

Musk, scientists call for halt to AI race sparked by ChatGPT

Are tech companies moving too fast in rolling out powerful artificial intelligence technology that could one day outsmart humans?
3 days ago
Associated Press

Starbucks leader grilled by Senate over anti-union actions

Longtime Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz faced sharp questioning Wednesday before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee
4 days ago
FILE - The overdose-reversal drug Narcan is displayed during training for employees of the Public H...
Associated Press

FDA approves over-the-counter Narcan; here’s what it means

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved selling naloxone without a prescription, the first over-the-counter opioid treatment.
4 days ago
FILE - A Seattle police officer walks past tents used by people experiencing homelessness, March 11...
Associated Press

Seattle, feds seek to end most oversight of city’s police

  SEATTLE (AP) — The U.S. Justice Department and Seattle officials asked a judge Tuesday to end most federal oversight of the city’s police department, saying its sustained, decade-long reform efforts are a model for other cities whose law enforcement agencies face federal civil rights investigations. Seattle has overhauled virtually all aspects of its police […]
5 days ago
capital gains tax budgets...
Associated Press

Washington moves to end child sex abuse lawsuit time limits

People who were sexually abused as children in Washington state may soon be able to bring lawsuits against the state, schools or other institutions for failing to stop the abuse, no matter when it happened.
5 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Compassion International...

Brock Huard and Friends Rally Around The Fight for First Campaign

Professional athletes are teaming up to prevent infant mortality and empower women at risk in communities facing severe poverty.
Emergency Preparedness...

Prepare for the next disaster at the Emergency Preparedness Conference

Being prepared before the next emergency arrives is key to preserving businesses and organizations of many kinds.
SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!
safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Chinese man gets over 4 years in prison for pandemic fraud