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Ambulance company owner faces over 100 years in federal prison for alleged COVID-19 relief fraud

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CBS News Los Angeles Live

A federal grand jury indicted an Orange County man for allegedly submitting fraudulent COVID-19 relief claims for his medical transportation company.

The US Department of Justice said Merdad "Mitch" Tabrizi of Aliso Viejo was charged with four counts of wire fraud, four counts of money laundering, two counts of tax evasion and two counts of filing false tax returns. If convicted as charged, Tabrizi faces a maximum of 136 years in federal prison. 

At the height of the pandemic, Tabrizi allegedly submitted two fraudulent Paycheck Protection Program claims on behalf of his Riverside-based company, Life Fleet Inc. He sought $695,565 to cover the company's monthly payroll of $139,313 for his more than 54 employees, according to the indictment.

He also allegedly filed for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan, in which he claimed Life Fleet had gross revenues of more than $4 million and 63 employees. 

The Department of Justice said Life Fleet was allegedly not in business, had no revenue and had no employees. 

Federal prosecutors said he also filed another fraudulent EIDL claim for Resonante Group Inc., an Anaheim-based company controlled by Tabrizi. The application claimed the business had gross revenues of more than $19 million and over 300 employees, according to the indictment. 

The Small Business Administration sent $319,800 to bank accounts controlled by Tabrizi. Prosecutors said he used the money for personal expenses. 

Tabrizi also faced previous charges for tax evasion and filing false tax returns for his company SoCal Medical Transportation Inc., another Riverside-based company. In 2015 and 2016, Tabrizi allegedly deposited $2.6 million of income into his bank account without disclosing it to a CPA firm handling his corporate tax returns. He claimed they were from a separate business. 

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