SACRAMENTO— On December 14, 2023, a federal grand jury returned a 25-count indictment against Shahrir “Sean” Loloee, 53, of Granite Bay, and Karla Montoya, 42, of Sacramento, charging them both with conspiracy, obstruction of agency proceedings, and possession and use of false immigration documents. Loloee is additionally charged with falsification of records and a pandemic relief fraud scheme.
According to court documents, Loloee is the owner of the Viva Supermarkets chain of grocery stores, and Montoya is the general manager. Since 2008, Loloee and Montoya engaged in a conspiracy to employ a labor force at the stores that consisted of a significant number of workers who lacked employment authorization in the United States. Loloee and Montoya are accused of doing so for the purpose of reducing Loloee’s labor force costs through unlawful means, including by failing to pay required overtime wages.
The indictment alleges that, in 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor began two investigations at Viva Supermarkets. Loloee and Montoya allegedly obstructed these investigations in a variety of ways, including by making false statements to agency investigators, listening in on an employee interview with an investigator for the purpose of influencing the employee to make false statements, instructing an employee to lie to an investigator about her hire date, and directing certain workers to hide to prevent them from being questioned by agency investigators. Loloee is also charged with three instances of providing false documents to obstruct the Department of Labor’s investigations.
The indictment further alleges that Loloee committed wire fraud when he applied to receive COVID-19 relief from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund program (RRF). Established as part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, the RRF was designed to support the restaurant industry by providing funding to those that had suffered significant pandemic-related revenue loss. To be eligible for an RRF award, a restaurant must have had a loss in gross receipts in 2020, as compared to 2019. In May 2021, Loloee submitted applications to the Small Business Administration (SBA) requesting RRF funds for two of his grocery stores. In the applications, Loloee substantially underreported each of his store’s 2020 gross receipts to make them appear entitled to an award, when they were not. Loloee requested more than $2.2 million, and based on his alleged fraudulent representations, the SBA awarded Loloee approximately $1.2 million.
This case is the product of an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation and Homeland Security Investigations.
This case was investigated with the assistance of the Tax Recovery in the Underground Economy (TRUE) Task Force includes the California Department of Justice, the California Employment Development Department, the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration, the Franchise Tax Board, the IRS-CI and HSI. The TRUE Task Force was created to ensure multi-agency collaboration and to combat wage theft, tax evasion, and other crimes in the underground economy.
If convicted, Loloee and Montoya face a maximum statutory penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count of conspiracy to defraud the Department of Labor, to commit immigration document fraud, and to obstruct justice; up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count of possession of false immigration documents or use of a false immigration document; and up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count of obstruction of agency proceedings. If convicted of the counts of falsification of records or wire fraud, Loloee faces a maximum statutory penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count.