By: States Attorney.
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Florida Man Charged with COVID-19 Relief Fraud
A Delray Beach man faces four charges after being involved in a complex COVID-19 scheme designed to fraudulently obtain millions in Paycheck Protection Program loans, as specified in an announcement by Acting U.S. Attorney Jason R. Coody on March 23, 2021. The Florida man allegedly fabricated legal documents, used falsified identities of elderly victims, and submitted fraudulent PPP loan applications to numerous financial institutions to acquire COVID-19 Relief funds illegally. The named defendant is expected to face over 35 years of imprisonment once convicted. The Paycheck Protection Program is a source of relief for qualifying small businesses and organizations, which provides forgivable loans that are ought to be spent on certain permissible expenses such as payment rolls. The PPP was made under the CARES Act and is fully guaranteed by the United States Small Business Administration.
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Announcement By Acting U.S. Attorney Coody
Yet another case of COVID-19 Relief Fraud is being prosecuted, according to the announcement made by the Acting United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida – Jason R. Coody. A federal grand jury has handed a four-count indictment in the afternoon of March 23, 2021, against a Florida man who has been accused of fraudulently obtaining or attempting to obtain more than $1.5 Million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. The Delray Beach man has been reported to have targeted elderly individuals who were mostly residents of senior living facilities, including one of his relatives.
Defendant, Charges, and Allegations
Jeremie Saintvil, 46, of Delray Beach, Florida, has been charged with aggravated identity theft, bank fraud, making false statements, and making false statements to a federally insured institution for allegedly submitting fraudulent Paycheck Protection Program loan applications in order to illegally seek more than $1,500,000 in PPP funds from financial institutions. It was noted in the loan applications the defendant submitted that he had used a fictitious business under his own name. On top of that, his complex scheme of illegally obtaining forgivable loans involved stealing the identities of eight elderly individuals. The report further notes that seven of the eight victims were residents of different senior living facilities, and one of whom was, in fact, a relative of the defendant. The aforementioned details were grounds for accusation in relation to submitting false statements and fraudulent loan applications to multiple financial institutions, including one whose headquarters was situated in Alachua County, Florida.
Details of the Indictment
Investigations revealed that defendant Saintvil had submitted a total of nine fraudulent PPP loan applications to nine different federally insured credit unions and banks. The indictment against the defendant alleges that he has submitted the loan applications on behalf of non-existent businesses and has even used falsified identities of eight elderly individuals in all of the PPP loan applications, apart from one in which he has used his own identity. In addition, it was reported that Saintvil had made numerous fallacious statements, including giving a false account of the number of employees and payroll expenses under each of the nine non-existent companies. In order to support the erroneous details in the fraudulent loan applications he submitted, the defendant managed to produce and put forward fake documents such as tax records and bank information that were all put together to provide evidence and substantiate the rest of the fabricated legal documents and loan applications.
Further details regarding the elaborate scheme of Saintvil were also taken into account in the indictment, which noted that the defendant has even gotten to the point of having to open bank accounts and lines of credit, in the names of his eight elderly victims, in different financial institutions and credit card companies in order to support all of his fabricated documents. Moreover, it was said that the defendant allegedly obtained debit and credit cards, as well as physical checks under the names of his eight elderly victims, while using services of an electronic payments processor in order to transfer funds from the illegally obtained lines of credit into the fraudulently opened bank accounts that were all a part of his grand scheme.
Paycheck Protection Program
The Paycheck Protection Program is an initiative under the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Securities (CARES) Act, which is a federal law that has been enacted last March 29, 2020. The CARES Act is worth about $2.2 trillion and was made with the intention to provide emergency financial assistance to millions of American citizens who are currently suffering the economic effects brought to the nation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In line with this, the Paycheck Protection Program was created, allowing qualifying small businesses and other organizations to acquire loans as a form of financial assistance during these struggling times. One source of relief that was arranged for the Paycheck Protection Program under the CARES Act was the authorization of up to $349 billion in forgivable loans during the first installation of the PPP. In April of 2020, a second installation was made, in which Congress authorized over $300 billion in additional funding to small businesses for job retention, among certain other permissible expenses through the PPP. After eight months, in December of 2020, another $248 billion was released to support the Paycheck Protection Program. The Small Business Administration (SBA) is the one responsible for guaranteeing the PPP loans, which are being funded by participating financial institutions.
For a small business or an organization to obtain a Paycheck Protection Program loan, a claimant must submit a PPP loan application, which is required to be signed by an authorized representative of the business. Through its authorized representative, the PPP loan applicant is expected to acknowledge the rules of the program and shall hand over certain affirmative certifications to be considered eligible to obtain COVID-19 Relief funds through the PPP. The files for the Paycheck Protection Program’s application shall include statements of average monthly payroll expenses, number of employees, among other things, as they are essential to calculating the amount of COVID-19 Relief funds a qualifying small business is eligible for to receive under the Paycheck Protection Program. Documentations showing the specific payroll expenses are also required to be submitted in the PPP loan application. Subsequently, a participating lender shall process the PPP loan application, and once approved, the participating lender shall fund the PPP loan using its own monies. Note that the Paycheck Protection Program loans are 100% guaranteed by the SBA. All information from the application, such as information regarding the borrower, the total amount of the loan, and the listed number of employees, is transmitted by the participating lender to the Small Business Administration through the course of processing the Paycheck Protection Program loan.
Loans received by a qualifying small business or an organization under the Paycheck Protection Program has a maturity of two years and an interest rate of only one percent; however, for a PPP loan to be considered fully forgivable, the recipient of the loan must use the proceeds strictly on interest on mortgages, payroll costs, rent, and utilities, among other certain permissible expenses under the Paycheck Protection Program within a set period of time. It is also imperative that the qualifying small business use at least a certain percentage of the loan proceeds on payroll expenses in order to have the PPP loan be considered forgivable. Otherwise, the two years maturity and one percent interest rate shall apply.
If found guilty of the charges, Jeremie Saintvil shall face a maximum penalty of 30-35 years in prison for two of the charges, namely, making false statements and making false statements to the federally insured institution. Moreover, the defendant faces an additional 2-year mandatory minimum prison sentence, on top of the possible prison sentence imposed as a result of the conviction of the charges of aggravated identity theft and bank fraud.
Investigation and Prosecution
The indictment of Jeremie Saintvil is a result of the collaborative investigation made by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigations, and the Small Business Administration – Office of Inspector General. Prosecution of the case is currently being handled by the Assistant United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida – Justin M. Keen.
An indictment is merely an accusation made by a grand jury stating the violation of a federal criminal law that the defendant could have possibly committed and should not be considered evidence of guilt. The named defendant shall be presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial. The government shall have the burden of proving the defendant to be guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
For Allegations Relating To COVID-19 Relief Fraud
Individuals with any information regarding allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 are requested to report to the National Center for Disaster Fraud of the Department of Justice via its hotline at (866) 720-5721 or through the NCDF Web Complaint Form.
United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida
Acting United States Attorney Jason R. Coody is the new Chief Federal Law Enforcement Official for the Northern District of Florida, replacing the former U.S. Attorney Lawrence Keefe. Jason Coody has been serving in the Office for almost 13 years, since 2008, and has been named Top Federal Prosecutor for the district on March 1, 2021. The Office of the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida is among the 94 Offices across the United States, which serves as the nation’s principal litigators under the leadership of the Attorney General. The United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida covers 23 counties and is responsible for providing a safer community for its residents. For those who may be interested in accessing public court documents available online, please visit the website of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida at http://www.flnd.uscourts.gov/. You can read more about fraud offenses at Federal Criminal Defense Lawyers.