Ranjan Rajbanshi, a dentist with practices in Bakersfield and Santa Barbara, is staring into the teeth of a federal prison sentence.
On Monday, the 46-year-old Rajbanshi pleaded guilty in Fresno federal court to stealing $500,000 in COVID relief funds, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced in a news release.
According to court records, Rajbanshi received more than $850,000 in COVID-19 relief money from the Small Business Administration and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from April 2020 through February 2022.
Agrees to Repay Stolen Funds
In his applications, Rajbanshi told the government that he would only use the relief money for specified business purposes such as facility costs, payroll, and protective equipment.
However, Rajbanshi admitted that he used $500,000 for improper personal expenditures such as investments. He has agreed to pay that money back to the government before his sentencing.
This case stems from an investigation by the FBI, the SBA Office of Inspector General, and the HHS Office of Inspector General. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph Barton and Robin Tubesing are prosecuting the case.
Rajbanshi is scheduled for sentencing by U.S. District Judge Ana de Alba on Dec. 4, 2023.
He faces a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. But the sentence will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of statutory factors and federal sentencing guidelines.
How to Report Tips on COVID Fraud
The U.S. Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force in 2021 to marshal DOJ resources in partnership with other agencies in a crackdown on pandemic-related fraud.
Anyone with a tip about suspected COVID-19 fraud can call the DOJ’s National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at this link.