A Dearborn Heights Realtor is facing up to 40 years in federal prison in connection with spending more than $1 million in COVID-19 relief loans on a seaside condominium in Lebanon, said the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Eastern District of Michigan.
Wahid Makki, 61, pleaded guilty to wire fraud and international money laundering, both of which are punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison, according to a news release. He was accused of illegally obtaining 10 loans for shell corporations totaling $1 million that were authorized by the CARES Act and designed to help small businesses facing financial difficulties due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Makki, according to authorities, admitted that he wired a portion of the loan money to buy a “sea view condo” in Beirut.
“This defendant stole money intended to keep our economy functioning and our workers employed during a national crisis, and then spent his ill-gotten gains on a luxury property overseas,” said U.S. Attorney Dawn Ison in a statement Monday. “Today’s guilty plea is an important step in holding Mr. Makki accountable for his crimes.”
Between April 2020 and April 2021, prosecutors said Makki authorized the submission of 17 loan applications seeking funds for pandemic relief in the names of businesses he claimed to control. The applications were submitted through the Small Business Administration’s “Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program,” a program that provided low-interest financing to businesses affected by the pandemic.
According to the plea documents, Makki’s business entities “had no revenue, employees, or ongoing operations of any sort,” although the applications noted that the entities had between three and 15 employees, officials said, adding that the average monthly payroll amounts included in the application were “fictitious.”
“While many people across the nation were struggling from the financial challenges caused by COVID-19, Mr. Makki used it as an opportunity to exploit pandemic relief programs for his own gain,” said Cheyvoryea Gibson, special agent in charge of the FBI in Michigan.
Makki’s sentencing is scheduled Feb. 6 before Judge Nancy Edmunds.