A New Hyde Park man was among five individuals charged with money laundering conspiracy as part of an alleged scheme to defraud New York City out of millions of dollars in connection with public contracts to perform work at homeless shelters throughout the city, officials announced on Wednesday.
Federal prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York said Irfan Bajwa, 42, was one of five individuals in the alleged scheme that would use bank accounts to receive proceeds from the illgeal activity along with making financial transactions to cover up their illicit origin.
Officials also arrested Liaquat Cheema, Ali Cheema, Shouket Chudhary and Khizar Hayat on Wednesday morning.
Liaquat Cheema and Ali Cheema were president and vice president of the Queens-based AFL Construction Co. Inc. around 2015, officials said. The company entered into public contracts with New York City worth roughly $12 million to perform contracting work such as landscaping, roofing and other general maintenance at the shelters, officials said.
From around 2014 to 2018, the pair allegedly stole from the funds paid by the city and filed false invoices and other documentation claiming the contracting work at various shelters had been done, according to officials.
To date, the company has been paid at least $8 million for the work that the pair claimed they conducted.
Aside from allegedly aiding Liaquat and Ali Cheema in their scheme, Bajwa, Chudhary and Hayat also obtained tens of thousands of dollars worth of Medicaid benefits by submitting false certifications, filing nearly identical employment letters that were signed off by a “project manager” who was dead, officials said.
“The defendants entered into public contracts so that they could provide vital maintenance to homeless shelters to aid New York City’s most vulnerable residents; however, instead of honoring these contracts, the defendants allegedly concocted multiple schemes to steal public funds,” U.S. Southern District Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement.
Bajwa, Hayat and Chudary were charged with one count of money laundering conspiracy, a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, one count of health care fraud conspiracy, a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and one count of aggravated identity theft, with a mandatory two-year prison sentence, officials said.
Additionally, Liaquat and Ali Cheema were charged with one count of wire fraud conspiracy, a maximum of 20 years in prison, officials said.
Liaquat Cheema received the same charges as the other three while Ali Cheema received all but the health care fraud conspiracy, officials said.