A TikTok influencer who focuses on cryptocurrency has pleaded guilty to laundering COVID-19 relief funds using cryptocurrency.
Denish Sahadevan, known on TikTok as Danny Devan, illegally obtained COVID-19 relief loans and then “laundered the funds by engaging in several monetary transactions, including purchasing and trading securities and cryptocurrency, settling personal debts and making payments to his girlfriend,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland said in a press release Wednesday.
The 31-year-old social media influencer pleaded guilty to wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and money laundering, the office said.
Sahadevan admitted to fabricating documents to electronically apply for eight Economic Injury Disaster loans (IEDLs) amounting to $283,900 and Paycheck Protection Program (PPL) loans amounting to $941,794.75. He received $146,000 under PPL, while he got the full amount in IEDL benefits, according to the attorney’s office.
In February, law enforcement officers conducted a search at Sahadevan’s home in Potomac and recovered 18 driver’s licenses “belonging to other individuals,” multiple electronic devices, approximately $17,043 in cash and “what appeared to be a gold physical Bitcoin.”
“The cash and Bitcoin constitute proceeds of the fraud scheme,” the attorney’s office noted.
Sahadevan faces a maximum sentence of 20 years for wire fraud, a mandatory sentence of two years for aggravated identity theft, and a maximum of 10 years for money laundering. His sentencing is scheduled for September.
Sahadevan has more than 26,000 followers on TikTok. Some of his videos have over 300,000 views and his bio says “investing crypto stocks.”
This is not the first time a social media influencer has pleaded guilty to crimes related to cryptocurrency.
In November, Jebara Igbara, known on Instagram as Jay Mazini, pleaded guilty to “perpetrating overlapping fraud schemes” that included making people believe “he was willing to pay above-market prices for various cryptocurrencies.”
After receiving crypto from his followers, Igbara doctored images of wire transfer confirmations even though the payments were never made.
“Igbara was merely stealing the cryptocurrency sent by his victim,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York said in a press release at the time.
The attorney’s office said Igbara’s overlapping schemes gave him at least $8 million in scammed money; $2.5 million of the said scammed funds were Bitcoin stolen from his followers, Decrypt reported.
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