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Washington chiropractor pleads guilty to $700,000 Covid relief fund scheme

A Washington state chiropractor admitted Thursday to fraudulently claiming more than $700,000 in Covid-19 relief funds meant for struggling small businesses, federal prosecutors said.

Austin Hsu, 46, of Issaquah, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and will be sentenced in April, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Authorities said he submitted nine fraudulent disaster loan applications covered by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act seeking more than $1 million.

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Hsu had already received Economic Injury Disaster Loan and Paycheck Protection Program loans for his company, a holistic wellness center outside Seattle called Back 2 Health.

He then used the names of current and former employees to apply for loans for four more companies, which he also admitted to creating fake tax filings to support his scheme, according to the Justice Department’s statement.

In another effort to obtain funds, prosecutors said Hsu incorporated a company in 2020. He initially told the Small Business Administration that the company had existed since 2017 and had nine employees and a gross income of $1.5 million, according to the Justice Department. However, Hsu later acknowledged to authorities the company had no business operations, officials said.

In total, six out of nine of Hsu’s fraudulent loan applications were approved. He was awarded $700,000 of the $1.1 million he sought.

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“The CARES Act is a federal law enacted March 29. It is designed to provide emergency financial assistance to millions of Americans who are suffering the economic effects resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic,” the Justice Department statement said.

The first reported case of coronavirus in the U.S. was reported near Seattle just over a year ago. The area quickly became the first U.S. virus hot spot.

Back 2 Health did not immediately respond to requests for comments early Friday morning. Hsu’s name is not listed under the “meet the team” portion of the wellness center’s website, but online doctor review sites list him as a chiropractor.

Source:

www.nbcnews.com

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