ATLANTA — A federal grand jury in Atlanta has indicted a Cobb County man, a licensed commercial pilot, accusing him of massive fraud — stealing money meant for business owners who were struggling to keep their businesses open, and their employees paid, during the pandemic.
Carl Torjagbo is charged with taking $9.5 million from the taxpayers —Paycheck Protection Program money meant for COVID relief — and then living in luxury.
One of his purchases, according to the indictment — a $1.6 million, 9,000-square-foot home in east Cobb County this past June.
Prosecutors say Torjagbo got the money by claiming that COVID might force him to shut down his business and lay off nearly 500 employees.
It turns out, according to prosecutors, it was all a lie; the address he gave for his business is a house in a residential subdivision in Douglas County, not a location where nearly 500 employees could work.
According to the indictment, Torjagbo’s purchases included homes, a $118,000, 2022 BMW M850XL, an $87,000, 2021 Land Rover Velar, more than $800,000 worth of equipment to start a new business, and plastic surgery costing more than $15,000.
During the past two years, 11Alive has followed the owners of small businesses across metro Atlanta who were at risk of going under during the pandemic without the PPP money they needed.
“Unfortunately, all the funds were already depleted,” Laura Sanders, owner of Inman Park Pet Works, told us in 2020 when she applied for a PPP loan. “I just have to rely on some of my personal savings account to keep our staff on and keep the doors open.”
“I was not able to pay my staff,” Yolanda Owens, owner of Iwi Fresh Spa in Castleberry Hill, told us in 2020, “the PPP we got was not enough.”
According to an NBC News analysis, out of $800 billion in PPP money that was available during the past two years, fraudsters made off with $80 billion of it.
The government is trying to recover the money.
Carl Torjagbo is in jail, now, being held without bond. He pleaded not guilty this week.
11Alive is working to reach his attorney for comment.
A federal public defender is assigned to represent Torjagbo, because Torjagbo told the court he cannot afford to hire an attorney.