Man charged in federal court with coronavirus relief fraud

SEATTLE — A suburban Seattle software engineer submitted false loan applications seeking over $1.5 million meant for businesses financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, according to federal court documents.

Baoke Zhang, 35, was charged with wire fraud and bank fraud, according to a complaint filed in the Western District of Washington that was unsealed Friday. He was arrested Friday, The Seattle Times reported.

Zhang allegedly submitted loan applications to lenders and financial institutions in April for funds guaranteed by the Small Business Association though the Paycheck Protection Program. The program, under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, provides forgivable loans to small businesses to use for payroll and other expenses.

According to court documents, Zhang created fake information technology companies for his applications. His applications said his business had been running for at least a year, but investigators found he had filed for business licenses for each company in April.

A representative for a lender also sent a message to an email address associated with Zhang’s application asking about discrepancies in his documentation. The recipient replied that his circumstances had changed and that he wanted to withdraw his application.

Zhang never received funding, according to court documents. It wasn’t immediately known if he has a lawyer.