Methuen Man Pleads Guilty to Stealing $452,000 in Federal Aid, Buying Cell Phones to Hide Source

John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse. (Beyond My Ken, Creative Commons.))

A 27-year-old Methuen man pleaded guilty last Thursday in federal court in Boston to using stolen identities to fraudulently obtain more than $452,000 in Economic Injury Disaster Loan funds from the Small Business Administration and to disguise the source of the money.

Ramon Joseph Cruz Jr. pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and four counts of wire fraud and aiding and abetting. U.S. District Court Judge Richard G. Stearns scheduled sentencing for Aug. 20. Cruz was arrested and charged in December 2020 along with alleged co- accomplice Darwyn Joseph. They were subsequently indicted by a federal grand jury in January 2021.

According to court documents, the men were involved in a conspiracy to use stolen identity information of U.S. citizens to apply for U.S. Small Business Administration Economic Injury Disaster Loans. Specifically, Cruz and, allegedly, Joseph used stolen identities to open fraudulent bank accounts which were then linked to other fraudulent bank accounts set up to receive the federal aid. Cruz and, allegedly, Joseph also received some of the debit cards associated with fraudulent bank accounts where the money was deposited, and then laundered the funds by spending $250,000 on iPhones in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

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