John Jhong, 54, of Sparta, New Jersey, has been sentenced to 36 months in prison for his role in defrauding several financial institutions and illegally obtaining over $2 million in COVID-19 relief funds, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced.
John Jhong, 54, was sentenced in Newark federal court by U.S. District Judge Susan D. Wigenton on Nov. 15, 2023, following his guilty plea to charges of bank fraud, money laundering, and misuse of a Social Security number. This sentencing addresses his fraudulent activities during the COVID-19 pandemic, wherein he sought to exploit government financial assistance programs.
U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger emphasized the gravity of Jhong's actions, stating, “The defendant took money from government programs that were established to provide financial assistance to Americans who were struggling to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. The sentence handed down today is his reward for attempting to turn these vital relief programs into his personal ATM. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to find and punish those who have tried to take advantage of the federal government.”
Special Agent Tammy Tomlins of IRS – Criminal Investigation echoed these sentiments, condemning the theft of taxpayer funds, “The theft of taxpayer funds is inexcusable...IRS Criminal Investigation will hold accountable anyone who steals from government programs intended to help those in need."
“Ensuring the Postal Service is not being used to perpetuate frauds against the U.S. Government, or its citizens, is one of our top priorities,” said Christoper A. Nielsen, Inspector in Charge, Philadelphia Division.
Jhong's fraudulent activities involved submitting numerous false loan applications, seeking over $15 million in federal pandemic aid, and successfully obtaining $2 million. He utilized falsified tax returns, government forms, and identities, including Social Security numbers of deceased individuals, for his personal gain.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Wigenton ordered Jhong to undergo three years of supervised release and pay restitution totaling $2.13 million.
“Today the defendant in this case was brought to justice for fraudulently obtaining more than $2 million in COVID-19 relief funding that was designed to assist struggling businesses during the pandemic,” said Special Agent in Charge Patricia Tarasca of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Office of Inspector General (FDIC OIG).
The successful prosecution of this case involved collaboration among various agencies, including the IRS, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Social Security Administration, FDIC OIG, and U.S. Secret Service. Assistant U.S. Attorney Fatime Meka Cano and Trial Attorney Chad M. Davis represented the government in this case.
This case is part of a broader effort by the District of New Jersey COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Strike Force, established to investigate and prosecute large-scale pandemic relief fraud. The strike force is an interagency law enforcement initiative formed to address fraudulent activities exploiting COVID-19 relief funds.
The public is encouraged to report any suspected fraud involving COVID-19 relief efforts to the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form.