Businessman bought a posh McLean mansion with covid relief funds

A McLean businessman who swindled nearly $1.6 million from federal coronavirus relief programs and spent much of the money on a mansion with its own movie theater and cigar room has was sentenced on Friday to two years and nine months in prison.

Foad Darakhshan, 47, admitted in a plea that he arranged with his girlfriend and four brothers to submit fraudulent tax documents and loan applications to the Paycheck Protection Program and the program disaster loan during the height of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.

Darakhshan personally secured nearly $1.6 million in coronavirus relief funds, court documents show, and used more than $621,000 to buy half a stake in a 9,816 square foot gated mansion at McLean now listed for sale at $4.425 million. The six-bedroom, six-and-a-half-bath property it is said to have a spa, cinema room, wine cellar and cigar lounge, among other amenities. Prosecutors said he also spent disaster relief funds at Costco and gas stations.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Russell L. Carlberg said in a court filing that cases of fraud involving coronavirus relief funds are “rampant” and called Darakhshan’s actions a crime of “opportunistic greed” because he didn’t need the money.

After being denied a series of loan applications, all submitted on the same day in May 2020 to Atlantic Union Bank, the group tried again with more meticulous fake documents submitted to PNC Bank and was successful, according to documents filed with the guilty plea. The scheme involved bogus businesses and non-existent employees in some cases, and wildly inflated revenue figures in others, prosecutors said.

“They did this at a time when many legitimate businesses were in desperate need of this money, businesses that were paying real employees, filing tax returns, and paying withholdings and benefits,” wrote Carlberg in a memoir. “These businesses included restaurants, movie theaters, dry cleaners, hair salons, beauty salons, fitness centers, music venues, among others.”

Darakhshan pleaded guilty in February to a charge of wire fraud conspiracy and bank fraud.

“What I did was wrong, and there is no excuse,” Darakhshan said during his sentencing on Friday. “I was brought up better.”

His attorney, Jeffrey Zimmerman, argued in court documents that Darakhshan’s girlfriend, Haleh Farshi, “coordinated the scheme.”

“Ms. Farshi did the research and the legwork,” Zimmerman wrote in a sentencing memoir. “She prepared the forms, instructed others on how to discuss them, and interacted with the [Small Business Administration] and bank staff. Contrary to government claims, there is no evidence that Foad exercised control over her or that she exercised control over anyone else. Instead, the text messages show that she coordinated the plan and consulted with Foad and his brothers regarding its execution.

Farshi’s attorney did not respond to a request for comment. She also pleaded guilty in February and was not sentenced. Darakhshan’s four brothers were also not convicted for participating in the scheme.

Farshi admitted to using separate coronavirus relief funds she obtained fraudulently “to pay over $59,000 of existing personal credit card debt, to write herself a check for $5,000, to rent a vehicle Infiniti sport utility vehicle for over $4,000 and to fund other personal expenses. expenses,” according to documents filed with his plea.

U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady found Darakhshan had no control over the other defendants, as prosecutors had argued when seeking a longer sentence. But the judge said Darakhshan and Farshi were “the most culpable” of the group and called their efforts a “binge eating”.

“I was struck by the text messages between you and Ms. Farshi where she makes the ‘free money’ comment and you haven’t explained why you did that,” O’Grady told Darakhshan from the bench.

Darakhshan, who said his family came to the United States from Iran, had asked for house arrest. Zimmerman noted that he had volunteered for decades with the Air Force’s Civilian Air Patrol.

Authorities seized about $975,000 in Darakhshan, prosecutors said.

But the $621,585 he poured into the McLean house-flipping project – which is described in his list as a “magnificent sanctuary” with fountains, a swimming pool and a private elevator – was not seized because Darakhshan is suing its business partner in state court over the property.

His lawyer said Darakhshan intended to repay the government as soon as he sold, and asked the judge if Darakhshan could get approval for another loan to repay the government more quickly. The judge said it was up to his probation officer to decide.

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