BENGALURU: Former Microsoft Ventures director and angel investor Mukund Mohan has pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering regarding his scheme to obtain over $5.5 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans and laundering the proceeds, the acting US Attorney for the Western District of Washington said in a press release issued on Monday.
The PPP gives loans to small businesses to retain workers during the pandemic.
Mohan is scheduled for sentencing in front of a US district judge on July 20. The release said under the terms of the plea agreement, prosecutors will recommend the low end of the federal sentencing guidelines range.
“Both prosecution and defence will recommend that Mohan pay a $100,000 fine in addition to his restitution obligation,” it said.
Wire fraud is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Money laundering is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Quick action by federal law enforcement resulted in the seizure of all but just over $16,000 of federal loan funds from Mohan’s accounts.
Last year, Mohan was charged by the US Attorney’s office with fraudulently applying for more than $5.5 million in coronavirus relief funds.
TOI had reported then that Mohan had applied for eight loans to six of his companies under the PPP. The complaint alleged that Mohan did not employ a single person in those companies, and some did not even have a business.
One of the companies he applied for a loan was called Mahenjo. The complaint alleges that Mohan made numerous false and misleading statements about it, including that on February 15, 2020, the company was in operation and had employees for whom it paid salaries and payroll taxes or paid independent contractors; that in 2019, its payroll expenses were more than $2.3 million; and that Mahenjo’s average monthly payroll expenses were at least $172,250.
“In truth, Mohan purchased Mahenjo on the Internet in May 2020 and, at the time he purchased the company, it had no employees and no business activity. The incorporation documents he submitted to the lender were altered and the federal tax filings he submitted were fake,” the release said.
Mohan studied computer science in Mysore University and rose to be director of engineering at Microsoft in the US before turning an entrepreneur. Six years ago, he was an angel investor with a portfolio of 35 companies, 27 of them in the Silicon Valley.
Mohan became a popular face in Bengaluru’s startup ecosystem when he moved here from the US in 2008, first to start a venture of his own and then to lead Microsoft’s startup accelerator programme that had just been founded. He returned to the US with a new role in Microsoft in 2014. He left Microsoft in 2015.