Tesla, Challenger, alert bank: Feds charge 2 in COVID fraud

Crime

David Unitan of Lake Oswego, Jeremy Clawson of Baker City charged

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A Tesla. A Ford F-350. A Dodge Challenger. Online dating. Large withdrawals. And an alert bank.

These are some of the clues that led to federal charges being leveled against 2 Oregon men for allegedly taking money designed to help small businesses during the pandemic for their own personal use.

The cases against David Unitan of Lake Oswego and Jeremy Clawson of Baker City are completely separate, the US Attorney for Oregon’s Office said in a release.

A Ford F-350 and a Tesla

The Lake Oswego case came to light in July when a small business owner in Clackamas County contacted the sheriff’s office to say his and his wife’s personal information was used to set up bank accounts in Boston. Unitan, who is 46 and also known as Danny Cohen, allegedly then applied for 6 small business and PPP loans, two of which were approved for a total of $295,000.

In that same basic time frame, $100,000 was transferred from a Boston account and the same day a wire transfer for $77,898 was made to Mackenzie Motor Company in Hillsboro. Investigators learned Unitan/Cohen bought a news Ford F-350 for that exact amount, and used his insurance card for a Tesla as part of the purchase.

The Tesla had recently been impounded by Lake Oswego police because Unitan/Cohen was driving it with a suspended license.

He was arrested by federal agents and Clackamas County deputies Tuesday morning. The Ford F-350 and the Tesla were seized. Unitan/Cohen is now charged with aggravated identity theft, wire fraud and money laundering.

A Dodge Challenger, online dating, an alert bank

On August 11, a $145,200 small business loan was deposited into an Umpqua Bank acount connected to Jeremy Clawson, 30, and his girlfriend. Investigators later determined the loan was made to benefit Halpering Manufacturing Company of San Diego — although there is no such company.

Six days after the deposit, Clawson took out a $49,905 cashier’s check and bought a 2016 Dodge Challenger. Bank investigators thought that was odd and contacted the Small Business Administration.

In early September, Clawson was arrested in Baker City for DUII, reckless driving, driving with a suspended license and trying to elude police in his Dodge Challenger.

At that time he told police he had inherited a lot of money from his father — including the $30,000 in cash he had on him at the time of an arrest.

When investigators went to talk with him on September 11, Clawson said he got the $145,200 from a woman he met on an online dating site. He said he didn’t know what to do with the money once he stopped talking with her so he decided to spend it.

He later admitted to using the SBA money to buy the Challenger and other vehicles, officials said.

A federal warrant was issued for Clawson, who is currently in the Snake River Correctional Institution after being convicted in the August 2020 arrest.

The Challenger was seized along with about $50,000 in money. Clawson has now been charged with criminal complaint with theft of government property.

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