Former bank VP sentenced in Brooklyn federal court for fraudulently obtaining COVID relief loans

June 21, 2024 Robert Abruzzese, Courthouse Editor
The federal courthouse in Brooklyn, where Anuli Okeke, former vice president of Popular Bank, was convicted for defrauding COVID relief programs. Eagle file photo by Rob Abruzzese
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Anuli Okeke, the former vice president and manager of a New York branch of Popular Bank, was convicted on Wednesday by a federal jury in Brooklyn on all counts of an indictment that charged her with conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud, and money laundering conspiracy. 

Okeke led a scheme to defraud the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, securing millions of dollars during the COVID-19 pandemic. The verdict came after a one-week trial before United States District Judge Frederic Block. Okeke faces up to 30 years in prison.

“While the global pandemic caused widespread economic and personal harm for so many, the defendant abused her trusted position at a bank to steal millions of dollars from programs designed to keep small businesses afloat and workers on payroll,” said U.S. Attorney Breon Peace.

The CARES Act was enacted to provide emergency financial assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic. It allocated funds for forgivable loans to small businesses through the PPP and low-interest financing through the EIDL program. These programs aimed to support job retention and cover specific expenses like payroll, rent, and utilities.

At trial, it was proven that Okeke and her co-conspirators fabricated loan and tax documents to steal funds from the PPP and EIDL programs. Okeke knowingly submitted false applications and took kickbacks from loan proceeds. She also submitted her own fraudulent EIDL loan application and took unauthorized commissions from legitimate PPP recipients.

Handwritten notes found at her desk revealed Okeke’s awareness and pride in her earnings from the scheme. Prior to her conviction, seven co-conspirators pled guilty to wire and bank fraud conspiracy related to the fraud.

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