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Washington State News

Arkansas, Washington Business Owners Indicted for Conspiring to Defraud COVID-19 Relief Programs

SPOKANE – On Friday, Vanessa R. Waldref, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced that a grand jury returned a Superseding Indictment charging Tyler Keith Andrews, age 37, of Bentonville, Arkansas, and Yuriy P. Anischenko, age 34, formerly of Spokane, with eleven counts of fraud in connection with a conspiracy to fraudulently obtain millions of dollars in COVID-19 relief funds intended for struggling businesses.  The charges in the Superseding Indictment are the most recent announced by the Eastern Washington COVID-19 Fraud Strike Force, which was created in 2022 to combat fraud against COVID-19 relief programs in Eastern Washington.      

On March 27, 2020, the President signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act.  The CARES Act provided a number of programs through which eligible small businesses could request and obtain relief funding intended to mitigate the economic impacts of the pandemic for small and local businesses.  One such program, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), provided government-backed loans to small businesses which could be forgiven so long as the proceeds were used for payroll and other eligible expenses.  Another program, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, provided low interest loans that could be deferred until the conclusion of the pandemic to provide “bridge” funding for small businesses to maintain their operations during shutdowns and other economic circumstances caused by the pandemic. The PPP and EIDL programs have provided billions of dollars in aid, the vast majority of which have not been paid back, including hundreds of millions of dollars disbursed within Eastern Washington.  

“COVID-19 relief programs quickly ran out of money due to the number of people and businesses that requested funding, which meant that some deserving small businesses could not obtain funding to keep their businesses openduring the COVID-19 pandemic,” said U.S. Attorney Waldref. “We created the COVID-19 Fraud Strike Force because it is critical to the strength and safety of our community in Eastern Washington that we all work together to combat pandemic-related fraud. Ourdynamic Strike Force is ensuring that limited resources are provided to deserving local businesses that provide vital services for our communities.”

In February 2022, the U.S. Attorney’s Office began working with federal law enforcement agencies to create and launch a COVID-19 Fraud Strike Force that would leverage partnerships between different agencies to aggressively investigate and prosecute fraud against COVID-19 relief programs in Eastern Washington.  The Strike Force consists of agency representatives from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Inspector General (OIG), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), U.S. Department of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs OIG, Department of Homeland Security OIG, Air Force Office of Special Investigations, General Services Administration OIG, Internal Revenue Service, Department of Energy OIG, and others.  Cases investigated and prosecuted by the Strike Force have resulted in numerous indictments, convictions, and civil penalties, and have returned millions of dollars in fraudulently-obtained funds to the public. 

The Superseding Indictment alleges that Andrews and Anischenko conspired with others to defraud COVID-19 relief programs by submitting fraudulent applications for funding for inactive businesses and by submitting false information.  The Superseding Indictment further alleges that, as part of the conspiracy, Anischenko obtained more than $300,000, some of which he shared with Andrews, for two inactive and ineligible businesses.  According to the Superseding Indictment, Anischenko recruited other co-conspirators for the scheme and connected them with Andrews, who then prepared and submitted fraudulent applications for the co-conspirators.   The Superseding Indictment also alleges that Andrews submitted false and fraudulent COVID-19 funding applications for his own purported businesses.  Finally, the Superseding Indictment charges Andrews with three counts of Aggravated Identity Theft for improperly using the name and identifying information of an Eastern Washington business owner to submit a fraudulent EIDL application, which the SBA did not approve.  The Superseding Indictment alleges that the conspirators obtained millions of dollars through the fraud. 

The fraud and conspiracy charges carry maximum sentences of up to 20 years in federal prison, while the identity theft charges carry 2-year mandatory sentences, which must be imposed consecutively to any sentences imposed on the fraud and conspiracy charges. 

This case was investigated by SBA OIG, FBI, TIGTA, and the Strike Force.  Assistant United States Attorneys Dan Fruchter and Tyler H.L. Tornabene are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States. 

An indictment is merely an allegation, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law