A Maple Grove man has pleaded guilty to fraudulently obtaining more than $1.7 million from the COVID-19 Paycheck Protection Program and using it to, among other things, pay off debts and install a backyard pool at his home.
Aditya Sharma, 47, was the founder and CEO of cloud-based software company Crosscode Inc., but was removed as an officer and fired from the company by its board of directors in November 2019, before the pandemic started.
Despite this, the U.S. Attorney of Minnesota says Sharma created three separate tech companies – Kloudgaze Inc., Neoforma LLC, and Mokume LLC. – and between April and August 2020 applied for more than $9.6 million in loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program from 10 different lenders.
He did this by submitting "false and fraudulent applications" under the names of his tech companies, submitting fabricated supporting records and making false claims about the number of employees he had and payroll expenses he'd incurred.
This includes claiming he had 29 workers on his Kloudgaze payroll, despite documents showing he paid no wages to a single employee.
Of the money he applied for, he was approved for three PPP applications, receiving $1,773,600 in PPP funds in total.
This month, the U.S. Attorney says, was used to "pay off unrelated legal debts, fund new business ventures, transfer approximately $14,000 to a financial account in India, and pay for home improvements, including landscaping and the installation of a $64,300 backyard pool at his residence."
Almost $675,000 of the money was seized by law enforcement and will be forfeited. Sharma pleaded guilty in federal court on Wednesday, and is now awaiting sentencing.