MARION COUNTY, OR – A former employee of the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) is facing multiple charges relating to an alleged plot that saw almost $1.5 million in COVID relief funds unlawfully funneled to non-existent entities.
Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum announced the 21-count indictment against Marzieh Abedin earlier in April, which includes counts of felony theft, identity theft and forgery regarding this alleged embezzlement scheme.
Abedin reportedly was responsible for handling vendor requests for FEMA COVID relief funds through the OHA’s COVID-19 Response and Recovery Unit, with prosecutors saying she began the fraudulent activity in June of 2021 and continued on until November of that year.
Throughout the summer and fall of 2021, Abedin allegedly used her position within the OHA to craft bogus invoices for fake companies, additionally creating falsified records of the fund approval process.
However, one company that was unwillingly involved in the scheme was a real one, identified in case records as T-Bev. Abedin allegedly created a fake website and email address for the real company and stole the identity of the company CEO, Xincheng Gu, and forging his signature on a W-9 in order to open up a bank account under the name of another person whose identity Abedin allegedly stole.
OHA spokesperson Jonathan Modie issued a statement regarding Abedin’s indictment, saying they were alerted “by an outside contractor” about the suspicious relief fund payments.
“Oregon Health Authority takes seriously its responsibility for ensuring appropriate use of federal COVID-19 response funds it manages. OHA uncovered the alleged fraudulent activity described by the Oregon Department of Justice after suspicious invoices and payments for an unknown business were identified by an outside contractor hired to reconcile FEMA invoices and payments for OHA.”
AG Rosenblum also issued a statement on the matter, noting that once authorities were tipped off about the suspicious relief funds payments, it was a relatively easy case of following the money that led to Abedin’s arrest.
“Fortunately, this fraud was caught by OHA and immediately referred to our Criminal Justice team. We were able to quickly follow the money through various bank accounts and recover nearly all of it. Let this be a warning to anyone looking to personally benefit from a public health emergency — no one, state employee or otherwise, is above the law.”
Out of the nearly $1.5 million allegedly stolen, authorities were able to recover all but $6,800.
Abedin is now facing one count of first-degree theft, six counts of first-degree forgery, two counts of Identity theft, five counts of aggravated first-degree theft, five counts of aggravated identity theft, one count of computer crime, and one count of first-degree official misconduct.
However, Abedin has not yet been arrested and is believed to have potentially fled the country. The affidavit notes that bank records show Abedin had purchased plane tickets “at two airports” that cater to “the country from which her passport was issued,” and that she is no longer actively at her listed address in Portland.