Seven Chicago-Area Residents Charged With $16 Million COVID-Relief Fraud | USAO-NDIL

CHICAGO – Seven Chicago-area residents have been indicted on federal charges for allegedly fraudulently obtaining at least $16 million in small business loans and grants under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act.

The defendants engaged in fraud related to the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDL) – one of the sources of relief under the CARES Act, according to a 33-count indictment returned Wednesday in the Northern District of Illinois.  Charged with wire fraud and money laundering are MAJA NIKOLIC, 34, of Brookfield, Ill., MARKO NIKOLIC, 34, of La Grange, Ill., NEBOJSA SIMEUNOVIC, 37, of Lyons, Ill., MIJAJLO STANISIC, 33, of Willowbrook, Ill., BRANKO ALEKSIC, 33, of Chicago, MILICA SUMAKOVIC, 31, of Chicago, and DORDE TODOROVIC, 32, of Chicago. 

Arraignments in federal court in Chicago have not yet been scheduled.

The indictment was announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; R. Sean Fitzgerald, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of Homeland Security Investigations; J. Russell George, Inspector General of the Treasury Department Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA); Justin Campbell, Special Agent-in-Charge of the IRS Criminal Investigation Division in Chicago; and Hannibal Ware, Inspector General of the U.S. Small Business Administration.  The government is represented by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Malgorzata Tracz Kozaka and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kavitha J. Babu.

The EIDL program provided loan assistance or grants to cover working capital and other operating expenses.  According to the indictment, the defendants in the spring and summer of 2020 submitted to the SBA fraudulent applications in which they claimed to own and operate various businesses in Illinois and Florida.  The applications and supporting documents contained materially false representations about the defendants’ companies, including the number of purported employees, revenue amounts, and other expenses, the indictment states.

The indictment alleges that the defendants caused the SBA to disburse at least $16 million in EIDL loans and grants into bank accounts controlled by the defendants and others.  The defendants allegedly used the money to make cash withdrawals and transfers for their personal benefit.

The public is reminded that an indictment contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt.  The defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  Each wire fraud and money laundering charge is punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison.  If convicted, the Court must impose reasonable sentences under federal statutes and the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.

Anyone with information about attempted fraud involving COVID-19 is encouraged to report it to the Department of Justice by calling the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or filing an online complaint at https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.