Written by The Business Journal Staff
The Paycheck Protection Program has provided funds for hard-hit businesses, but one Bakersfield medical practice is being charged for double dipping in the same round of PPP applications.
Dr. Sandeep Walia, owner and president of his practice, Sandeep S. Walia, M.D., a Professional Medical Corporation, agreed to pay a combined $70,000 in damages and penalties, Acting U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced today. The settlement resolves allegations that Walia and his practice had falsely told a PPP lender that he had not already received a PPP loan, though the practice had already received one for $280,000. The second PPP loan Walia’s medical practice received valued $430,000.
The CARES Act, enacted March 29, 2020, set aside relief for emergency financial assistance to businesses in efforts to keep the economy afloat. In April 2020, Congress authorized over $300 billion, and in December 2020, Congress authorized nearly $285 billion in additional PPP funding.
“It is unacceptable to fraudulently attempt to gain access to a program aimed at assisting small businesses that are struggling to survive for personal gain and profit,” said SBA OIG’s Western Region Special Agent in Charge Weston King. “OIG and its law enforcement partners will relentlessly pursue fraudsters and bring them to justice. I want to thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners for their dedication and pursuit of justice.”
Walia agreed to pay it back with interest as part of the settlement. In addition, the settlement resolves that Walia and his medical practice violated the False Claims Act. The government can recover damages and penalties for making false claims for payment to the United States.
“The second PPP loan should have been disbursed to another small business suffering financially during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Talbert. “The Department of Justice and our partners at the SBA will use all of the tools at our disposal, including civil fraud statutes, to recover funds for federal programs intended to help those in need during this national emergency.”