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Seven plead responsible to stealing $1.5 million in COVID-19 loans


Seven defendants, together with three who had labored for JetBlue Airways, have pleaded responsible to stealing $1.5 million from a federal pandemic-relief program for small companies, prosecutors mentioned.

The defendants, from Queens and New Jersey, every withstand 20 years in jail. They’ve agreed to forfeit the COVID-19 Financial Harm Catastrophe Mortgage funds that they fraudulently obtained in 2020 and luxurious watches and vehicles, the prosecutors mentioned.

JetBlue computer systems had been used to submit a number of the mortgage purposes, in line with the prison grievance.

Orlando Sanay, Keily Nunez, Michael Pimentel Veloz, Fanny Plasencia, Ramon Osvaldo Pena and Angel Okay. Colon every pleaded responsible to a cost of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in reference to false statements that they made to acquire EIDL loans from the U.S. Small Enterprise Administration. The statements included false claims that the companies in want of assist had staff and 2019 income, the grievance states.

Nunez’s twin, Keimi, pleaded responsible to wire fraud.

All seven are scheduled to be sentenced later this yr in Brooklyn federal courtroom.

The defendants stole “from a authorities program designed to assist struggling small companies and households survive the pandemic,” mentioned Breon Peace, U.S. Lawyer for the Japanese District of New York, which incorporates Lengthy Island.

The plea offers are a part of a nationwide effort by federal prosecutors and investigators to fight widespread fraud in COVID-aid packages. EIDL has the very best proportion of projected fraud: as much as $86 billion out of $350 billion in complete loans, or practically 25%, in line with SBA’s Workplace of Inspector Normal.

Among the many seven defendants, solely the attorneys for Pena and Colon responded to requests for remark. Pena, 39, of Maywood, New Jersey, “has acknowledged accountability for his actions and is hopeful [the federal judge] takes into consideration the entire vital constructive facets of his life at sentencing,” mentioned his lawyer Todd A. Spodek.

Colon, 39, of Garfield, New Jersey, “was a minor participant” within the crime, “which the federal government has acknowledged,” his lawyer Joshua Stevens mentioned on Thursday. “Mr. Colon is hopeful that the decide throughout setencing will take into account [Colon’s] unblemished life up so far.” 

A JetBlue spokesman didn’t reply to requests for remark this week.

Sanay, 41, of Elizabeth, New Jersey, and Keimi and Keily Nunez, each 42, of Queens, had been employed by JetBlue throughout April-November 2020 after they and the opposite defendants sought EIDL loans for at the very least 10 companies, in line with the grievance. A yr in the past, a federal prosecutor instructed Newsday that Keily Nunez now not labored for the Queens-based airline.

In a single occasion, Sanay utilized for an EIDL mortgage utilizing a JetBlue laptop in July 2020. The mortgage software was for Sanay Enterprise Capital LLC, which he mentioned employed 26 folks and had income of $839,000 in 2019. However authorities information present the enterprise, which Sanay mentioned he owned, has no staff and by no means filed a tax return, in line with the grievance.

Sanay Enterprise acquired $139,400 from the SBA, the grievance states.

The defendants used the EIDL funds for private bills unrelated to the companies, together with a house buy, overdraft charges on a checking account and medical payments. Sanay made a automobile cost to BMW Monetary Providers in September 2020 utilizing a number of the Sanay Enterprise mortgage, mentioned Angel Martinez, a particular agent for the U.S. Division of Homeland Safety.

Individually, federal investigators have been given extra time to pursue fraud within the EIDL program and one other COVID-relief initiative, the Paycheck Safety Program loans.

Final month, President Joe Biden signed into legislation two payments that stretch to 10 years the statute of limitations for civil and prison fraud prices involving EIDL and PPP loans. “My message to these cheats out there may be this: You may’t conceal,” the president mentioned on Aug. 5. “We will discover you. We will make you pay again what you stole.”



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