Star Dental Group's Ranjan Rajbanshi, who ran his Santa Barbara practice at 15 East Arrellaga Street (above), has pleaded guilty to stealing half a million dollars of COVID relief money intended for struggling businesses. | Credit: Yelp, Callie Fausey

Santa Barbara dentist Ranjan Rajbanshi, 46, pleaded guilty on Monday, August 21, to stealing half a million dollars in COVID-19 relief money, according to an announcement from U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert.

Rajbanshi ran Star Dental Group, a dental practice in Santa Barbara and Bakersfield, according to court records. From April 2020 to February 2022, the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) gave him $850,000 in COVID-19 relief money, which he attested would only be used for specified business purposes such as facility costs, payroll, and protective equipment for him and his staff.

However, Rajbanshi then used $500,000 of that money for what the U.S. Attorney’s Office described as “improper personal expenditures such as investments.” As part of his plea agreement, he must pay that money back to the government before his sentencing, which is scheduled for December 4 in U.S. District Court in Fresno.

In addition to the relief money that he’s agreed to pay back, Rajbanshi faces a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison and fine of $250,000. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, “The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.”

Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud, involving COVID-19, can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at (866) 720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form.


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