Four Defendants Indicted in Alleged $10 Million Bank Fraud Scheme Involving the Sale of 26 Gas Stations in Four States
|U.S. Attorney’s Office October 31, 2013|
CHICAGO—Four defendants were indicted on federal charges for their alleged roles in a scheme to fraudulently obtain more than $10 million in loan proceeds from a suburban bank through the sales of 26 gas stations in Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. Two defendants, Charnpal Ghuman and Aga Khan, co-owned the gas stations and sold them to purchasers financed by the bank loans and guaranteed in part by the Small Business Administration. They allegedly recruited purchasers and arranged the loans through a bank loan officer, Akash Brahmbhatt, based on false financial representations, including false tax returns prepared by Shital Mehta, an accountant, both of whom also were indicted.
A fifth defendant, Khan’s brother, Shabbir Khan, was charged separately with tax offenses arising from the bank fraud investigation.
A 23-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury earlier this month was unsealed yesterday following the arrests of Ghuman, 34, of North Barrington, who was charged with 19 counts of bank fraud, three counts of bank bribery, and one count of filing a false federal income tax return; and Khan, 33, of Schaumburg, who was charged with four counts of bank fraud. Both men pleaded not guilty at their arraignment today and remain in federal custody pending a detention hearing at 10:30 a.m. Monday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Daniel Martin in federal court.
The indictment seeks forfeiture of approximately $10 million from Ghuman and Khan, as well as $198,180 in proceeds from the sale of Ghuman’s 2005 Porsche Carrera GT Coupe, which was allegedly purchased with fraud proceeds.
Brahmbhatt, 39, formerly of Naperville and currently living in Texas, and Mehta, 47, of Elk Grove Village, were each charged with one count of bank fraud. They were not arrested and will be arraigned on a date to be determined in U.S. District Court.
The arrests and charges were announced by Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Robert J. Shields, Jr., Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and James C. Lee, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, together with officials of the Small Business Administration Office of Inspector General, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Office of Inspector General.
According to the indictment, American Enterprise Bank, based in Buffalo Grove, was authorized to process SBA loans on its own if the loan satisfied SBA qualifications and rules, including a requirement that SBA loans could not be used to finance 100 percent of a business investment.
Between 2006 and 2009, the defendants allegedly engaged in the scheme, which involved the sales of 26 gas stations, including stations in the Illinois towns of Macomb, Mendota, New Boston, Rock Island, and Silvis, as well as three other states.
As part of the scheme, Ghuman and Khan allegedly recruited purchasers of their gas stations who did not qualify for SBA loans and arranged for loans to be made in whole or in part in the name of the purchaser’s relative or friend who had acceptable credit, even though Ghuman, Khan, and Brahmbhatt knew that this straw purchaser would have no role in the gas station or repayment of the loans. In addition, the same three defendants caused false information and documents to be submitted to the bank, including false information about employment, income, assets, and liabilities; false tax returns allegedly prepared by Mehta; and false information about the purchasers’ contributions of equity.
Ghuman and Khan allegedly gave gifts to Brahmbhatt, including cars, in exchange for his alleged assistance in processing the fraudulent loans. The loan proceeds were paid to Ghuman and Khan as payment for gas stations owned by various business entities they controlled.
Ghuman alone was charged with filing a false federal income tax return for 2006, when he reported total and adjusted gross income of $203,583, and the total tax was $37,260, allegedly knowing that the actual amounts substantially exceeded those figures.
Shabbir Khan, 31, of Schaumburg, was charged separately yesterday with two misdemeanor counts of failing to file federal income tax returns for 2008 and 2009. He allegedly had gross income in 2008 in excess of $55,000 from his employment at a cell phone store and from broker’s fees paid to him by American Enterprise Bank as commissions on the loans, and gross income in excess of $30,000 in 2009 from his cell phone store employment.
Each count of bank fraud and bank bribery carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The tax count against Ghuman alone carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The tax charges against Shabbir Khan each carry a maximum penalty of a year in prison and a $100,000 fine. In addition to criminal penalties, including mandatory costs of prosecution, defendants convicted of tax offenses remain responsible for any taxes and interest due, as well as civil penalties of up to 75 percent of the tax owed. If convicted, the court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal statutes and the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines. The government is being represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sheri Mecklenburg.
An indictment contains merely charges and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.