Susan J. Kellman, lawyer for Rami Saab, speaking outside courthouse. 

Susan J. Kellman, lawyer for Rami Saab, speaking outside courthouse.  Credit: John Roca

A construction worker who until last summer lived in Glen Cove was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Friday for fraudulently obtaining more than $9.6 million in pandemic-relief loans and grants.

Rami Saab, 44, was also ordered to pay back the stolen funds during the sentencing at the federal courthouse in Central Islip. He confessed to the crimes in July.

Saab is among 22 Long Islanders who have been accused of stealing nearly $50 million in Paycheck Protection Program loans and COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loans. The aid was meant to help businesses and nonprofits survive the economic shutdowns instituted in 2020-21 to slow the coronavirus’ spread.

"The crime here borders on treasonous" because it took place at a time of crisis for the United States, U.S. District Judge Gary R. Brown said in sentencing Saab. "What happened to the money? We still don't know."

Later, Saab's attorney, Susan G. Kellman, said an appeal of the sentence was possible.

"We will look at his appellate rights and see what we can manage," she told Newsday outside the courthouse. 

Saab, who was born in Kuwait and immigrated to the United States as a teenager, has been in prison since June because he threatened to harm the mother of one of his young children. 

He pleaded guilty to committing wire fraud by submitting at least 20 false applications for more than $32 million from the PPP and COVID EIDL programs. 

Between May 2020 and May 2021, Saab and an undisclosed number of associates secured millions of dollars for shell companies with no employees. They did so by lying on loan applications about the number of employees, payroll costs and what the loan funds would be used for. They submitted false income tax returns to back up the lies, according to a sworn statement by Matthew Ammann, a special agent for IRS Criminal Investigation.

Upon receiving the money and laundering it through 50 bank accounts, Saab and his associates enriched themselves and sent some to friends in Turkey and elsewhere overseas, Ammann said.

Saab also sent monthly payments of $700 to $1,000 to his mother, Aysha, and paid his children's expenses and for anti-obesity surgery for a young woman, according to the judge and prosecutors.

An unnamed co-conspirator has been charged but remains at large, according to Breon Peace, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

Saab "used fraud and deceit on an extraordinary scale to exploit government programs designed to keep struggling small businesses afloat during an unprecedented public health crisis,” Peace said after the sentencing.

For his part, Saab said in court, "I accept responsibility. The main issue for me is not being punished...My main concern is my kids. I want the chance to be back with them."

Saab said his father repeatedly beat him and that he began committing crimes as a teenager when he was left in Queens to care for a younger brother after his parents returned to Jordan.

Saab, then in his 20s, was imprisoned for 5½ years for bail jumping and enterprise corruption. Later, he spent an additional 4½ years in prison for illegally selling Sudafed at his family's gas station in Arkansas.

In a letter to the judge before his sentencing, Saab wrote that he defrauded the PPP and COVID EIDL because "I am a person who has always liked to look good in the eyes of other people and sometimes that meant 'getting over' on them. To be the smart one."

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