Davenport Couple Charged with $ 5.eight Million COVID Help Fraud | USAO-MDFL

Tampa, Florida – Acting United States attorney Karin Hoppmann announces the filing of a criminal complaint charging Julio Lugo, 44, and Rosenide Venant, 37, both from Davenport, with conspiracy and misrepresentation against a financial institution. Lugo was also charged with an illegal monetary transaction related to illegally using coronavirus aid funds to repay a bill for a luxury car purchased during the conspiracy. If convicted, Lugo faces a maximum sentence of 45 years in federal prison. Venant faces a prison sentence of up to 35 years.

According to the complaint, as of March 2020, Lugo and Venant teamed up to defraud the Small Business Administration (“SBA”) with millions of dollars in coronavirus aid. Lugo and Venant used their private IP address to submit at least 70 false and fraudulent loan applications in order to receive funding from the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (“EIDL”) program. The fraudulent loan applications claimed more than $ 5.8 million, including for shell companies founded by Lugo, Venant and their relatives. The conspirators also secured coronavirus aid funds for a defunct tax preparation company with which Lugo committed tax fraud in 2015 or around 2015. After the emergency loans were secured, the conspirators abused the PPP and EIDL funds by paying off a luxury vehicle and spending more than $ 62,000 in casinos and other personal uses. In addition, the conspirators withdrew at least $ 320,000 in cash. Lugo exposed the abuse of SBA funds in a Facebook video showing a hotel room with $ 100 bills and at least $ 5,000 Louis Vuitton goods.

The Coronavirus Law on Aid, Aid and Economic Security (“CARES”) is a federal law that was enacted in March 2020. It is designed to provide emergency financial aid to millions of Americans suffering the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. One source of relief under the CARES Act is the approval through the PPP of up to $ 349 billion in unsuccessful small business loans for job retention and certain other expenses. In April 2020, Congress approved over $ 300 billion in additional PPP funding. In response to COVID-19, small business owners, including farm businesses, and nonprofits in all states, Washington DC and territories have also been authorized to apply for loans and grants through the COVID-19 EIDL program.

A complaint is just a formal charge that a defendant has committed one or more violations of federal criminal law, and each defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, Tampa Field Office. It is being pursued by United States assistant attorneys Kristen A. Fiore and Suzanne Nebesky.