North Carolina federal jury convicts father and son of aiding viral businesses

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (AP) — A father and son are now awaiting sentencing after a federal jury in North Carolina found them guilty of charges involving $1.7 million in pandemic business aid received by the father’s businesses which the U.S. government claims were obtained fraudulently.

After a six-day trial, jurors found Tarik Freitekh guilty of bank fraud, money laundering, conspiracy to commit both wire fraud and money laundering, and forgery and concealment of material facts, according to a press release from the US Department of Justice.

Her father, Izzat Freitekh, 55, of Waxhaw, was also found guilty on Wednesday of money laundering, conspiracy to launder money and making false statements. But he was found not guilty of several more serious charges directly related to the conspiracy, The Charlotte Observer reported.

The younger Freitekh, who faces a maximum combined sentence of more than 60 years in prison, has been detained until his sentencing hearing. His father faces a maximum of 45 years on the counts.

Federal prosecutors presented evidence in court in Charlotte showing the father and son obtained $1.7 million by submitting fraudulent Paycheck Protection Program loan applications for several companies owned by Izzat Freitekh, including La Shish Kabob, a popular Charlotte restaurant. The loan applications misrepresented the number of workers and salary expenses, the Justice Department statement said, while the defendants made illegal payments to family members from the proceeds.

“The bad guys borrow and don’t pay back,” Dena King, the U.S. attorney for western North Carolina, said in a statement after the trial, “but in the case of the Freitekhs, they also lie to cover up fraud”.

Tarik Freitekh is in his thirties and comes from California. His lawyer, Stephen Lindsay, called the results “a real headache of a case”. He said that while the PPP money in question had gone to the father’s businesses, the son had been convicted of the most serious crimes.

“From what I could tell, the restaurant qualified for PPP loans legitimately,” Lindsay told the newspaper. “Unless it’s a Robin Hood type thing, it really doesn’t make sense to get the loans fraudulently,”

Izzat Freitekh declined to comment on Friday until he spoke to his lawyers, but told the Observer: “I respect what happened.”

The Freitekhs were arrested in December 2020. The feds say they recovered $1.3 million from what the father and son stole.

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