CLEVELAND — A federal affidavit alleges six family members fraudulently obtained $7.4 million in pandemic relief loans by creating dozens of fake Northeast Ohio farming businesses.
Two of the six family members, Aydin Kalantarov and Gunay Kalantarli, were arrested in California, where they reside, on Jan. 25. The couple each faces charges of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire or bank fraud. Daniel Ball with the Public Affairs Office for the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio said charges could be forthcoming against the four other individuals allegedly involved in the scheme. Ball said the DOJ is working to recover all of the fraudulently obtained funds.
According to the affidavit, Zaur Kalantarli, Nigar Kalantarli, Ali Kalantarli, Kandy Rodriguez, Aydin Kalantarov, and Gunay Kalantarli "did knowingly and intentionally" conspire to defraud the Small Business Administration, which administers coronavirus aid.
A News 5 investigation last December found the six family members registered dozens of agriculture-themed businesses at three Northeast Ohio residential homes last spring, including Fresh Ohio Berries, Ohio Natural Beets, and Organic Ohio Broccoli.
The affidavit said the Kalantarli family then applied for and received 53 pandemic relief loans totaling $7,447,400. It also said federal agents were alerted to the fraud when they saw the businesses were issued an EIN after April 1, 2020. Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by Congress last March, businesses were supposed to be in operation prior to February 1, 2020 to receive assistance.