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Man Accused Of $20M COVID-19 Loan Scam Mulls Plea Deal

By Pete Brush · September 30, 2020, 5:25 PM EDT

Counsel for a businessman jailed in New York City on charges of lying in an effort to obtain $20 million in loans earmarked for companies hit by COVID-19 told a Manhattan federal judge Wednesday his client is considering a deal to plead guilty.

Muge Ma, 36, is planning discussions with prosecutors from the Manhattan U.S. attorney's office, his counsel told U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman during a telephone hearing, after the judge again denied bail to Ma and set a Dec. 7 follow-up hearing.

Ma's lawyer, Peter Katz, and prosecutor Sagar Ravi told the judge the sides may be able to come to a resolution of the charges.

"The parties are also in ongoing discussions regarding a potential pretrial disposition of this case," Ravi said.

Ma, a Chinese national and permanent U.S. resident with a UCLA business degree, got loans via the Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan program by falsely telling the Small Business Administration and lenders that his companies had hundreds of employees, according to the feds.

In reality, Ma, who also goes by Hummer Mars, appears to have been the only employee of his companies — New York International Capital LLC and Hurley Human Resources LLC — and had no legitimate basis to apply for loans, say the feds, who also accuse him of falsely claiming to be a COVID-19 test kit manufacturer and a medical equipment supplier representing the state of New York.

"At the time Ma committed these crimes, he was living in an approximately $1.5 million condominium in a luxury high-rise building in Manhattan that he purchased in 2018, despite him only reporting approximately $30,000 in annual income," Ravi told Judge Berman in a Sept. 24 letter.

Ma denied the charges at a Sept. 4 arraignment. He faces a total of nine criminal counts including fraud and making false statements and is currently jailed inside Manhattan's Metropolitan Correctional Center.

Judge Berman was told Wednesday the evidence against Ma includes a large volume of emails as well as recorded calls.

Ravi said the evidence record will be produced to Ma inside the MCC once Ma furnishes a hard drive large enough to hold it.

The MCC is in the process of ramping up in-person visits between lawyers and inmates amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Katz declined to comment after the hearing.

Ma is represented by Peter Katz of the Law Offices of Peter Katz LLC.

The government is represented by Sagar Ravi of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York.

The case is U.S. v. Ma, case number 1:20-cr-00407, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

--Editing by Janice Carter Brown.

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