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District of Massachusetts

Aug 18, 2023

BOSTON – A Methuen man was sentenced today in federal court in Boston for using stolen identities to fraudulently obtain Economic Injury Disaster Loan funds from the Small Business Administration (SBA) and laundering the funds. Ramon Joseph Cruz, Jr., 27, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Richard G. Stearns to two years and one day in prison and three years of supervised release. Cruz was also ordered to pay restitution in an amount that will be determined at a future hearing. On May 18, 2023, Cruz pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and four counts of wire fraud and aiding and abetting.

Between approximately April and December 2020, Cruz and co-defendant Darwyn Joseph conspired to use stolen identity information of United States citizens to apply for SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans. Specifically, Cruz and Joseph used stolen identity information of U.S. citizens to open fraudulent bank accounts which were then linked to other fraudulent bank accounts set up to receive the SBA funds. Cruz and Joseph also received some of the debit cards associated with fraudulent bank accounts into which SBA funds were deposited, and then laundered those funds by using them to purchase large numbers of iPhones for re-sale. Cruz and Joseph also wired a portion of the funds to the Dominican Republic in furtherance of the scheme. Over $452,000 in SBA funds were fraudulently obtained in connection with this scheme. Approximately $250,000 of this money was used to purchase iPhones in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Joseph pleaded guilty to his role in the conspiracy on July 12, 2023 and is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 19, 2023.

Acting United States Attorney Joshua S. Levy and Michael J. Krol, Acting Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in New England made the announcement. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Elianna J. Nuzum and Adam W. Deitch of the Criminal Division prosecuted the case.

On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. The Task Force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud by, among other methods, augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts. For more information on the Department’s response to the pandemic, please visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.  Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.&nb…;

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