Oregon dentist pleads guilty to stealing millions in COVID-19 relief loans

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — On Sept. 13, a former West Linn dentist pleaded guilty to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in federal court for stealing almost $11.5 million in funds allocated for COVID-19 relief.

Salwan Adjaj submitted multiple fraudulent loan applications to the Small Business Administration from September 2020 until at least May 2021, according to federal prosecutors, and stole funds from the Economic Impact Disaster Loan and Paycheck Protection Program that were authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act that sought to support small businesses affected by the pandemic.

Adjaj faked certain details to pose as several businesses in need of relief, such as names, employer identification numbers, business start dates and locations, prosecutors said. Although most of these applications were sent under other people’s names, he often recorded his personal address as the business’s mailing address, authorities said. Each application was allegedly submitted from the IP address at Adjaj’s place of work.

SBA rejected most of his EIDL applications, so Adjaj allegedly pivoted his focus to the PPP program and the Restaurant Revitalization Fund which provides economic relief to businesses in the food and drink industry. In May 2021, he submitted applications on behalf of fictitious restaurants that he claimed were located in Florida, prosecutors said.

Adjaj was officially charged by a criminal complaint with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft on Oct. 14, 2021. Two months later on Dec. 14, he was arrested due to an alleged pretrial release violation. The next day, he received an order stating that he would be detained pending further court proceedings.

In addition, Adjaj pleaded guilty to illegally distributing thousands of controlled substances in a separate criminal case on July 13. The former dentist confessed to using his profession to access the substances, prosecutors said.

He could be sentenced a maximum of 22 years in prison, receive a $250,000 fine and three years’ supervised release for his COVID-19 relief fraud case. For his drug-related offenses, Adjaj faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, a $500,000 fine and three years of supervised release. 

U.S. District Court Judge Michael W. Mosman will sentence Adjaj for both federal cases on Dec. 6. As stated in his plea agreement, Adjaj will compensate for his crimes against the SBA and victim lenders with no less than $10.5 million.

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