Feds charge former Oakland religious leader suspected of trying to steal $22 million in PPP loans

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Sunday, October 4, 2020
Cars pass by outside the California Employment Development Department main offices in Sacramento, Calif.
Cars pass by outside the California Employment Development Department main offices in Sacramento, Calif.

SAN FRANCISCO -- A California man convicted five years ago of defrauding several local governments in the state has been charged with allegedly trying to steal $22 million from the Paycheck Protection Program, the U.S. Attorney's office says.

Attila Colar, 48, of Richmond, who goes by several aliases including Dahood Sharieff Bey, was charged with bank fraud in an alleged scheme where he falsified documents to take advantage of the federal program intended to keep small businesses afloat during the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. Attorney's Office in San Francisco said Friday.

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Colar faces up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine if convicted.

Prosecutors sought to keep him detained in jail while the case is prosecuted by telling the court that Colar tried to destroy records related to PPP applications by flushing them down the toilet when investigators executed a search warrant at his home in Hercules.

According to a criminal complaint, he submitted nine loan applications, including three for All Hands on Deck, a nonprofit he founded to offer services to people released from jail or prison, and received $1.1 million from one of those applications. Prosecutors said he falsified payroll tax documents to make it look like he was paying employees in excess of $22 million, when there were no W2 forms to back up the claim.

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Unemployment benefits are still out of reach for many Californians who are out of work. While legitimate workers can't get benefits, officials say the EDD has paid at least $250,000 in benefits to inmates running a scam inside a San Mateo County jail.

None of the loan money was spent, defense attorney Patrick Hanly wrote in a motion arguing for Colar's release.

"This is a no loss paper crime. A fraud case involving allegations of false statements on a loan application," Hanly wrote. "The loan proceeds sat in the defendant's account for over 2 weeks before being seized by the FBI."

The East Bay Times reports Colar was the leader of a Black Muslim temple in Oakland and a group that was a spinoff of Your Black Muslim Bakery, after the leader of the bakery was arrested and later convicted of ordering the murder of Oakland journalist Chauncey Bailey.

Colar was convicted in 2015 and sentenced to five years in state prison for submitting bogus documents to win security contracts with Alameda County, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles.