Suburban Bank Fraud Schemers; Flipped Gas Station, Re-Sold to Unqualified Buyer; Sentenced to Prison and Ordered to Pay $14.3 Million in Restitution

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CHICAGO — A federal judge in Chicago has sentenced several defendants in a bank fraud scheme to prison terms and ordered them to pay more than $14.3 million in restitution.

Charnpal Ghuman, 39, of Palatine, and Aga Khan, 39, of Bloomingdale, were business partners who “flipped” gas stations by purchasing them and re-selling to buyers whom Ghuman and Khan knew were not qualified to obtain bank financing. The pair conspired with a loan officer inside American Enterprise Bank to submit false application documents to obtain loans from the bank guaranteed by the U.S. Small Business Administration. An accountant participated in the scheme by furnishing AEB with false tax returns to help get more than half of the loan applicants qualified for financing. From 2006 to 2009, Ghuman and Khan obtained more than $40 million in loan proceeds as a result of the scheme.

Ghuman and Khan pleaded guilty to bank fraud charges, as did the loan officer, Akash Brahmbhatt, 44, of Spring, Texas, and the accountant, Shital Mehta, 53, of Elk Grove Village.

U.S. District Judge John J. Tharp, Jr., on Thursday ordered restitution to AEB of $14,343,899. Judge Tharp had previously sentenced all four defendants to prison terms.

The sentences and restitution order were announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Jeffrey S. Sallet, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Gabriel L. Grchan, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division in Chicago. The SBA and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. assisted in the investigation.

According to evidence in the case, Ghuman and Khan set up various corporate entities that purchased multiple gas stations in Illinois and other areas of the Midwest for immediate resale at a higher price. Ghuman and Khan arranged for the financing on behalf of the buyers through AEB loans, which were guaranteed by the SBA if certain requirements were met, including that the borrowers provide a percentage of equity. Ghuman and Khan worked with Brahmbhatt to falsify the loan applications, which included false statements regarding the buyers’ income, employment and experience, as well as false tax returns submitted by Mehta. Ghuman and Khan also falsified equity payments required by the buyers.

“Ghuman and Khan walked away with millions of dollars in loan proceeds, while the borrowers defaulted, leaving the bank’s loss in the millions of dollars,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Sheri H. Mecklenburg argued in the government’s sentencing memorandum. “This was not a one-time lapse in judgment. Defendants’ fraud was repeated and ongoing, over the course of years.”

Judge Tharp ordered prison terms and restitution for each of the defendants:

Ghuman: Five years and six months in prison; restitution of $11,843,899, of which $2 million is owed personally and the remainder owed jointly with Khan. Ghuman also received a concurrent sentence of three years in prison and was ordered to pay $1,952,653 to the IRS after also pleading guilty to filing a false tax return.

Khan: Three years in prison; restitution of $10,843,899, of which $1 million is owed personally and the remainder owed jointly with Ghuman.

Brahmbhatt: Three years in prison; restitution of $10,843,899, of which $1 million is owed personally and the remainder owed jointly with Ghuman.

Mehta: One year and one day in prison; restitution of $500,000, owed personally.


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