Feds: Dearborn Heights man tried using $1 million in pandemic relief to buy Middle East condo

A Detroit-area man has been charged in connection with a scheme to use more than $1 million in federal pandemic relief funding to buy a condominium in the Middle East.

A criminal complaint unsealed Tuesday charges Wahid Mohamed Makki, 59, of Dearborn Heights, with wire fraud and money laundering, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Detroit.

Loans were obtained for 10 shell corporations and then wire-transferred to a bank in Turkey for the purchase of a "sea view condo in Beirut, Lebanon," authorities said.

The Associated Press was unable Tuesday afternoon to determine if Makki has an attorney.

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The Economic Injury Disaster Loans are part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Act that allows qualifying small businesses and other organizations to receive forgivable loans to cover payroll, mortgages, rent and utilities.

The Justice Department recently named associate deputy attorney general Kevin Chambers to lead efforts to combat pandemic-related fraud.

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As of earlier this month, the Justice Department had already taken enforcement actions related to more than $8 billion in suspected pandemic fraud. That includes bringing charges in more than 1,000 criminal cases involving losses in excess of $1.1 billion, opening civil cases against over 1,800 individuals and businesses for alleged fraud involving more than $6 billion in loans, and seizing more than $1.2 billion in relief funds.

In December, the U.S. Secret Service said nearly $100 billion at minimum had been stolen from COVID-19 relief programs designed to help businesses and people who lost their jobs due to the pandemic coronavirus pandemic.

The Labor Department reported about $87 billion in unemployment benefits could have been paid improperly, with a significant portion attributable to fraud.