Wannabe Business Lender Sentenced to Six Years in Prison
Justin Cheng’s website said his company, Celeri Network, could help business owners get a loan between $5,000 and $5 million. Rife with all the familiar lingo commonly found on loan broker websites, Celeri Network gave the appearance of an everyday small business finance company.
Unfortunately for unsuspecting customers, Cheng took his own approach with applicants, telling them that they had to pay upfront refundable “due diligence fees” to help them secure funding. Of course, when the funding never came through, he failed to deliver refunds to the tune of $380,000.
That was only the tip of the iceberg for Cheng who was sentenced to 72 months in prison this week for a litany of schemes including this one.
According to the Department of Justice, “Cheng used the identity of other individuals to submit online applications to the SBA and at least five financial institutions for a total of over $7 million in government-guaranteed loans through the SBA’s PPP and EIDL Program for several companies controlled by CHENG, namely Alchemy Finance, Inc., Alchemy Guarantor LLC d/b/a “Celer Offer,” Celeri Network, Inc., Celeri Treasury LLC, Wynston York LLC, and Neo Bellum Industries Inc.”
Representing also that he had more than 200 employees when he never had more than 14, he successfully secured $2.8M in PPP funding altogether.
“Cheng transferred over $1 million abroad, withdrew approximately $360,000 in cash and/or cashier’s checks, and spent at least approximately $279,000 in PPP loan proceeds on personal expenses,” the DOJ found. “These personal expenses included the purchase of an 18-carat gold Rolex watch for approximately $40,000, rent and move-in fees for a $17,000 per month luxury condominium used by CHENG, approximately $50,000 of furnishings for the condominium, a portion of the purchase of a 2020 S560X4 Mercedes, and purchases totaling approximately $37,000 at Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Burberry, Gucci, Christian Louboutin, and Yves Saint Laurent.”
Far from finished, Cheng also announced the launch of a blockchain-based peer-to-peer lending platform and sold more than $400,000 in digital tokens through “materially false and misleading statements and omissions.”
“Cheng, 25 of New York, New York, pled guilty on April 20, 2021, to one count of major fraud against the United States, one count of bank fraud, one count of securities fraud, and one count of wire fraud,” the DOJ said.Last modified: August 11, 2021