Former Amazon and Microsoft executive Mukund Mohan has been arrested in the US for forging documents to acquire more than $5.5 Mn from the coronavirus relief funds meant for startups to retain workers. Mohan had allegedly claimed these benefits by showing fraudulent tax filings and altered incorporation documents of six shell companies.
To brush up your memory, Mohan had come under the radar in India for similar reasons. He had claimed to have founded over five companies, invested in 11 companies between 2008 and 2012 in his personal capacity and funding two companies through investment fund Napkin Stage. He was one of the big names in the Indian startup ecosystem until an investigative report, Mukund Mohan: The Chronicles Of Napkin-Ville, by Inc42 scrutinised the claims made by him. At that point, many ecosystem influencers (not taking any names) had defended Mohan.
Once again Mohan’s entrepreneurial claims have come to light after a US Attorney alleged that Mohan had created fake and altered documents for six shell companies which did not employ anyone to get benefits from the coronavirus relief funds Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). He, then, transferred some of the acquired money to his Robinhood brokerage account for his personal benefits.
“… such property having been derived from a specified unlawful activity, namely, wire fraud in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343, and bank fraud in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1344(2). All in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1957(a) and 2,” the US district court order added.
Overall, Mohan had filed for eight fraudulent loan applications through six companies — Zuput, GitGrow, Vangal, Expect Success. Mahenjo Inc and Zigantic LLC. Three out of six shell companies were investigated by Inc42 in 2015.
The first seven of these eight applications have been summarised in the table below. Notably, two applications for $2 Mn loan were canceled, one for $1.7 Mn loan was withdrawn, while other five applications for loans worth $2.57 Mn were approved.
The US Attorney highlighted that Mohan served as the founder and/or CEO for Zuput, GitGrow, Vangal, and Expect Success, while his wife is the founder of Zigantic. The court also noted that Mohan has applied to Financial Institution 5 for a PPP loan on behalf of Mahenjo for $431,250 on June 3, 2020.
Mohenjo Inc: According to the forged document submitted by Mohan, Mahenjo Inc had 24 employees and paid millions of dollars in employee wages and payroll taxes. It was seeking $431,250 from PPP to pay these employees, but on further investigation it was found that Mohan bought this company on the internet in May from an undisclosed company that specialises in “aging” shell corporations to make them seem more legitimate.
Zigantic LLC: Meanwhile, the documents submitted for PPP loan also claim that Mohan was running the other company, Zigantic LLC, with his teenage son as the chief marketing officer. Two Geekwire profiles of the company noted that Zigantic LLC is a platform that matches gamers with developers who need to test and validate their games, but the company does not have a business licence and has never paid employee wages or payroll taxes. Yet it received $304,830 in PPP loans.
Zuput: Mohan is an investor in the investment management platform Zuput since its founding in 2015. According to LinkedIn, the company has had three employees including Mohan since 2015. While, the official website highlights that the company has seven employees but does not disclose anything besides their first names.
Vangal: Mukund has been claiming to have built and successfully sold Bengaluru-based Vangal for years. The company claims to offer social media analytics solutions to help brands understand the impact. However, Inc42’s previous investigation had noted that Mukund and his wife, Vinita Ananth, are the only two directors of the company since incorporating on April 16, 2010 – 2015. The report further revealed that there was no form of funding made into Vangal or had any form of exit. Further the only annual returns that were filed were of the financial year 2010–11 and showed no forms of revenues. According to LinkedIn, only two people have been associated with this company.
GitGrow: Inc42’s previous article had highlighted that Mukund has owned the domain, vangal.com, since 2006 till 2015 at least. According to Archive.org, from September 2012 till October 1, 2015 vangal.com used to redirect to Gitgrow.com. However, it used to take a user to the default GoDaddy page until 2015, but now it highlights a basic webpage that hasn’t been updated since 2016. The company also has only one employee.
Expect Success: Inc42 could not really find any major digital trace of this company. Upon our research, we found an unclaimed page linked to Mohan’s profile.
According to Mohan’s LinkedIn profile, he is currently serving as the CTO and head of sales in Canadian building materials retailer BuildDirect. Prior to BuildDirect, he held Director posts at Microsoft Ventures and Amazon Business.
Previously, he had claimed to have invested in three startups — ChargeBee, SignEasy and Appointy — through his early-stage startup fund NapkinStage. However, the three startups clarified that NapkinStage is not an investor in them, while ChargeBee and SignEasy that the company was only an advisor.
Read more about Mukund Mohan’s claims on investment, entrepreneurship and other ventures in ‘Mukund Mohan: The Chronicles Of Napkin-Ville’.