PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – A Portland man was sentenced to prison on Monday after fraudulently claiming COVID-19 relief funds meant for businesses.
48-year-old Benjamin Tifekchian was sentenced to 21 months in prison with five years’ supervised release. He was also ordered to pay upwards of $910,000 in restitution, including more than $26,000 to the Small Business Administration.
In May 2019, Tifekchian incorporated Bencho Jewelry Inc. in Oregon which had no employees and didn’t earn over $500 in any year, according to court documents.
Authorities said Tifekchian fraudulently applied for CARES Act Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) along with Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans.
In the EIDL applications, Tifekchian falsely said Bencho made up to $758,000 in revenue and had been in business for 20 years with 12 employees. The Small Business Administration denied the applications.
However, officials said Tifekchian received more than $884,000 in PPP funds in 2020 after claiming he employed 78 people with an “average monthly payroll of $353,698.”
Authorities said he used the PPP loans to gamble and pay for vacations among other personal expenses. After he spent more than $68,000 of the funds, Bank of America froze his account — suspecting fraud.
On July 13, 2021, a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging Tifekchian with bank fraud and wire fraud. He pleaded guilty to bank fraud on January 25, 2022.