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Denish Sahadevan, better known as Danny Devan on TikTok, pleaded guilty in federal court on Wednesday to charges of wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and money laundering involving cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin.
The District of Maryland U.S. Attorney's Office said in a press release the influencer tried to defraud lenders and the U.S. government for $1.2 million worth of COVID-19 relief loans.
Danny Devan became famous on TikTok for creating videos about investing in stocks and cryptocurrency, reaching 26,000 followers at the time of his arrest. At his peak, Sahadevan had amassed more than 630,000 followers, according to Business Insider.
During the onset of the pandemic, the U.S. government enacted the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, to provide financial assistance to Americans suffering the economic effects of COVID-19 measures. This included Paycheck Protection Programs (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL)—both were used by Devan for his financial schemes, according to U.S. prosecutors.
Beginning in March 2020, Devan allegedly created fake tax forms and bank statements, then submitted PPP and EIDL applications through several Maryland-based entities he controlled. Additionally, he used information belonging to an acquaintance–without this person’s consent–to legitimize certain documents, said prosecutors.
Sahadevan applied for roughly 71 PPP loans, according to authorities, which would have amounted to $941,000. He ultimately received $146,000 in PPP benefits, but also applied and successfully obtained $238,000 through 8 EIDLs.
Taking to securities and cryptocurrency trading, prosecutors say the 31-year-old attempted to launder the government funds, settling personal debts and transferring some of the money to his girlfriend along the way.
The social media personality borrowed $1.3 million, without disclosing the $283,000 debt from his EIDL benefits, and purchased a six-bedroom mansion in Potomac, Maryland.
It all came to an end on February 24, 2023, when police raided his Potomac residence. Authorities then discovered that Devan held 18 drivers licenses of other people, along with $17,000 in cash, and what Maryland prosecutors described as a “gold physical Bitcoin in a black case.” Law enforcement seized it all.
Sahadevan now awaits sentencing in Maryland. He faces a maximum 20-year federal prison sentence for wire fraud; 10 years for money laundering; and a mandatory two years for aggravated identity theft.
As part of his plea agreement, Sahadevan will forfeit the cash and Bitcoin he owned and pay $429,000 in restitution.