SPOKANE — Two new indictments have been announced after investigations by the COVID-19 Relief Fraud Strike Force, launched by the U.S. Attorney’s Office earlier this year. The indictments were recently made public.
On May 3, a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging Natasha Opsal, 40, a former Spokane resident now residing in Great Falls, Montana, with nine counts of fraud in connection with multiple COVID-19 relief loans . The indictment accuses Opsal of fraudulently requesting more than $600,000 through the Paycheck Protection Program and economic disaster loan programs for shell companies, from which it received more than $600,000. $50,000. The indictment was unsealed this week after Opsal was arrested and charged.
On the same day, May 3, a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging Yuriy P. Anishchenko, 34, a former Spokane resident last known to reside in Kent, Washington, with three counts of accusation of fraud in relation to two economic damages. Disaster loans sought and obtained by Anishchenko. The indictment accuses Anishchenko of fraudulently obtaining more than $300,000 for ineligible and ineligible businesses. The fraud charges in both cases carry maximum sentences of up to 20 years in federal prison.
On March 27, 2020, the President signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act. The CARES Act provided a number of programs through which eligible small businesses could apply for and obtain relief funding intended to mitigate the economic impacts of the pandemic for small businesses and local businesses. One such program, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), provided small businesses with government-backed loans that could be forgiven as long as the proceeds were used for payroll and other qualifying expenses. Another program, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, provided low-interest loans that could be deferred until the end of the pandemic to provide “bridge” financing to small businesses to maintain their activities during shutdowns and other economic circumstances caused by the pandemic. . The PPP and EIDL programs have provided billions of dollars in aid, the vast majority of which has not been repaid, including hundreds of millions of dollars disbursed in eastern Washington.
“COVID-19 relief programs quickly ran out of money due to the number of people and businesses applying for funding, meaning some deserving small businesses were unable to secure funding to sustain their operations. operating during the COVID-19 pandemic,” U.S. Attorney Waldref said. “We created the COVID-19 Fraud Strike Force because it is critical to the strength and safety of our community in Eastern Washington that we all work together to combat fraud related to the pandemic. The Strike Force is a way to ensure that limited resources are provided to deserving local businesses that provide vital services to our communities. I greatly appreciate the hard work and esprit de corps of so many talented agents and agencies who contribute to our collective efforts.
In February 2022, U.S. Attorney Waldref and the U.S. Attorney’s Office (USAO) began working with federal law enforcement agencies to create and launch a COVID-19 Fraud Strike Force that would leverage partnerships between different agencies to aggressively investigate and prosecute fraud against COVID-19. relief programs in eastern Washington. The strike force is made up of representatives from USAO agencies, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the Small Business Administration (SBA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Inspector General of US Treasury Department for Tax Administration (TIGTA), US Secret Service, US Homeland Security Investigations, US Department of Veterans Affairs OIG, General Services Administration OIG, Internal Revenue Service, Department of Energy OIG, and others. Cases investigated and prosecuted by the Strike Force have resulted in numerous indictments, criminal prosecutions and civil penalties, including these two most recent indictments.
“I commend the stellar investigative work on these cases done by Strike Force and in particular by the US Secret Service, SBA, FBI and TIGTA,” US Attorney Waldref said. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to vigorously prosecute those who misuse and misuse COVID-19 relief funds.”
Assistant United States Attorney Dominique Park is suing USA against Anishchenko, while Special Assistant United States Attorney Frieda Zimmerman and Assistant United States Attorney Tyler HL Tornabene are suing USA against Opsal. Both cases were investigated by the COVID-19 Relief Fraud Strike Force.