The Indian American CEO of multiple software development and IT services companies in the Bay Area has been sentenced to two years in prison for his role in a conspiracy to commit bank fraud and for his failure to pay over more than $2 million in employment taxes.
Kishore Kethineni, was sentenced by Edward J. Davila, United States District Judge, on Friday, according to a press release from US Attorney’s Office, Northern District of California.
Kethineni, of Dublin, California, pleaded guilty to the charges on Feb 21, 2023. In pleading guilty, Kethineni admitted that he conspired with his two brothers to engage in a scheme in which they fraudulently obtained over $3.1 million in loans under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
The PPP is a Covid-19 pandemic relief program administered by the Small Business Administration (SBA) that provided forgivable loans through third-party lenders to small businesses for payroll and certain other expenses.
Kethineni was the sole owner and CEO of four of the companies involved in the scheme: BiteGate, Inc., Dinenamics, Inc., Neelinfo, Inc., and TechPMC, Inc.
His brothers were the owners of the three other companies involved: Boxstertech, Inc., Hiretechforce, Inc., and TechGlobalSystems, Inc.
From April 2020 through May 2021, Kethineni and his brothers submitted multiple PPP loan applications on behalf of their various respective companies, in which they made fraudulent representations and provided falsified payroll data and records to obtain loans and loan forgiveness under the program, according to the release.
Collectively, Kethineni and his brothers submitted at least 12 PPP loan applications on behalf of their seven companies. The applications sometimes were virtually identical.
The applications resulted in the approval and funding of nine loans totaling over $3.1 million in PPP funds. Upon receipt of the PPP loan funds, Kethineni redirected significant amounts to himself and his family members instead of using the funds for payroll and other authorized business expenses under the program.
Kethineni also admitted to willfully failing to account for and pay over employment taxes that his company, Neelinfo, Inc., had withheld from the pay of its employees, incurring an employment tax liability of over $2 million over the course of five years (from 2014 through 2018).
Kethineni acknowledged that he used a payroll service company to process Neelinfoâ€™s employee payroll and track its employment tax obligations.
Every quarter, the payroll service company provided Neelinfo with a prepared Form 941 that reflected the taxes withheld from Neelinfoâ€™s employees, which Neelinfo was required to pay over to the IRS.
Despite receiving these prepared tax forms each quarter, Kethineni did not file them with the IRS, nor did he pay over any employment taxes on behalf of Neelinfo, while still causing Neelinfo to make thousands of dollars in other expenditures, according to the release.
At the end of each year, the payroll service also provided Neelinfo with its employeesâ€™ Forms W-2, which were used by the employees to file their personal income taxes.
However, due to Kethineniâ€™s failure to file any employment tax forms or pay over Neelinfoâ€™s employment taxes as required, some of Neelinfoâ€™s employees were subject to audits and inspection by the IRS after filing income tax returns based on income that Neelinfo never reported.
On Feb 15, 2023, Kethineni was charged by Superseding Information with one count of failure to pay over employment tax and one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud. Kethineni pleaded guilty to both counts.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Davila also ordered Kethineni to serve two years of supervised releaseâ€”to begin after the prison termâ€”to pay $3,295,514.25 in restitution, and to pay a $15,000 fine. The court also ordered entry of a money forfeiture in the amount of $3,186,315.00.