FRESNO, Calif. — Ranjan Rajbanshi, D.D.S., 46, of Bakersfield and Santa Barbara, pleaded guilty today to stealing $500,000 in COVID-19 relief money, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.
According to court records, Rajbanshi ran a dental practice in Bakersfield and Santa Barbara. From April 2020 through February 2022, he received over $850,000 in COVID-19 relief money from the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). He represented to the government that he would only use the relief money for specified business purposes such as facility costs, payroll, and protective equipment for him and his staff.
Rajbanshi subsequently used $500,000 of the relief money for improper personal expenditures such as investments. He has agreed to pay that money back to the government before his sentencing.
This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the SBA Office of Inspector General, and HHS Office of Inspector General. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph Barton and Robin Tubesing are prosecuting the case.
Rajbanshi is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Ana de Alba on Dec. 4, 2023. Rajbanshi faces a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison and fine of $250,000. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.
On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. The Task Force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud by, among other methods, augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts. For more information on the Department’s response to the pandemic, please visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.
Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.