Federal courthouse
Federal courthouse in downtown San Diego. Photo by Chris Stone

A San Diego man already facing fraud and money laundering charges is now accused of taking $4 million in ill-gotten pandemic loans, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Friday.

Denny Bhakta, 41, is accused of applying for and receiving at least 18 loans through the Paycheck Protection Program, which provided small businesses with funding for payroll and expenses amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prosecutors allege Bhakta misrepresented his businesses’ payroll expenses, number of employees and how the money would be used.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office alleged he instead used the money “to make credit card payments, pay large expenses at casinos and make cash withdrawals,” as well as engage in an investment fraud scheme that resulted in a 2021 indictment.

In that alleged scheme, prosecutors say he took at least $28 million from investors over a five-year period by soliciting investors in his companies and using the money for personal purposes, as well as paying other investors.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office alleges Bhakta told investors his companies would purchase discounted blocks of hotel rooms from Hilton, then sell those rooms for a profit to United Airlines.

Bhakta allegedly provided fabricated bank records and fake agreements with the hotel chain and airline to make his companies’ purported business dealings appear legitimate.

City News Service