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Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Feds Charge Family Who Formed Dozens of Fake Farming Companies in Northeast Ohio to Get $7.4 Million in Coronavirus Aid

Posted By on Wed, Feb 3, 2021 at 10:01 AM

  • House on Forestview where some of the farming businesses were supposedly located | Google maps

Zaur Kalantarli and some of his family members have been charged via criminal complaint with wire fraud by the Feds for allegedly registering dozens of fake farming businesses in Northeast Ohio and using those businesses to apply for millions of dollars in federal coronavirus aid.

All told, some $7.4 million in loans and grants, the vast majority received via the Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, were dispensed to 72 businesses like Ohio Organic Berries, Ohio Red Wiggler Worms and Garlic Farming LLC that existed only on paper and whose listed addresses were one of three houses in suburban Cleveland.

Bloomberg News in November first reported on the scheme as it looked into fraud in the SBA program. The farming businesses in Cleveland drew the outlet's attention because they were formed after Feb. 1, 2020, the deadline for businesses to have been created to receive the aid. After visiting the properties, including a home in Euclid, Bloomberg contacted Kalantarli for comment. He enlisted a lawyer, who referred the information to the Feds.

The SBA's inspector general, Hannibal Ware, said last year $1.1 billion in loans and grants were given to companies like the ones cited in the criminal complaint that didn't exist until after Feb. 1, 2020.

According to Bloomberg, "A $750 million computer program set up by the SBA in April was supposed to flag suspicious disaster-aid applications before they were approved, but last month Bloomberg News quoted current and former SBA workers and outside fraud investigators describing widespread fraud that the computers had failed to catch. Even a person posing as President Donald Trump made off with a $5,000 grant."

The complaint is below. Mobile users may have to switch to desktop to view.

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