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San Diego restaurant operators indicted in alleged PPP loan fraud

The owners of Rockstar Dough LLC and Chicken Feed LLC face charges of wire fraud and money laundering.
San Diego restaurant fraud
The Paycheck Protection Program was designed to help support small businesses impacted by Covid./Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

The owners of several restaurants in San Diego have been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of wire fraud and money laundering in connection with an alleged scheme to scam funding from the Covid-related Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP.

Leronce Suel and Ravae Smith, who owned Rockstar Dough LLC and Chicken Feed LLC, were indicted on May 19 for allegedly conspiring to underreport more than $1.7 million in gross receipts on 2020 tax returns in order to qualify for PPP loans and the Restaurant Revitalization Funding program, the U.S. Justice Department said Wednesday.

The two also are charged with making false statements on the loan applications, and they also made substantial cash withdrawals from their business bank accounts to launder the funds obtained. According to the indictment, Suel and Smith concealed more than $2.4 million in cash at their residence.

It’s not clear what restaurants the two companies operate. The two could not be reached for comment.

According to FederalPay.org, a site that lists PPP loans, Rockstar Dough received two loans, one for $82,850 in April 2020, and another for $105,728 in March 2021. Chicken Feed LLC received $181,455 from the PPP program in March 2021.

If convicted, the two face a maximum of 30 years in prison for the wire fraud charges and 10 years for money laundering.

“During an unprecedented public health emergency, the United States provided these loan programs to delivery economic relief to Americans,” said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman for the Southern District of California, in a statement. “This office will investigate and prosecute those who exploited the global pandemic to unjustly enrich themselves. We encourage anyone with information regarding individuals who have engaged in Covid-relief fraud to come forward.”

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