By Associated Press - Friday, May 7, 2021

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) - A Connecticut man was arrested Friday on bank and wire fraud charges, accused of fraudulently obtaining nearly $2.9 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds and using some of the money to buy expensive cars.

Federal authorities allege Moustapha Diakhate, 45, of Stamford, provided Citibank with false and fraudulent information when applying for Paycheck Protection Program or PPP loans last year for his five businesses. Some of the money was allegedly used to pay off a loan on a 2010 Porsche SUV and purchase a Mercedes and BMW.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office also alleges Diakhate used some of the money to buy a certificate of deposit worth thousands and disburse some to individuals unrelated to his businesses. Prosecutors also say a substantial amount of the money is unaccounted for.

Diakhate appeared Friday before U.S. Magistrate Judge S. Dave Vatti in Bridgeport, who ordered that he remain in custody. Diakhate’s federal public defender, Charles Willson, had argued for Diakhate to be released on bond and detained at home with his wife serving as his custodian, the Stamford Advocate reported. But prosecutors argued Diakhate is a flight risk, given his ties to family in Africa and his wife’s ties to Brazil.

Willson accused prosecutors of having a bias against his client, who he said came to the U.S. in the 1990s and later became a citizen.

“This guy is just as much a citizen as I am,” he said. “He’s been in Connecticut longer than I have, consecutively.”

The PPP program was part of the CARES Act, authorized by Congress in March 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic to provide forgivable loans to small businesses to retain workers and cover other expenses.

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