South Florida tax preparer convicted in COVID-19 fraud scheme | USAO-SDFL – Community News
Covid-19

South Florida tax preparer convicted in COVID-19 fraud scheme | USAO-SDFL

Miami, Florida — A South Florida tax preparer was today sentenced to 24 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for operating a scheme to fraudulently obtain more than 100 COVID-19 relief loans under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). He was also ordered to pay more than $1 million in restitution.

Leonel Rivero, 35, of Miami, ran a tax preparation business and filed about 118 fraudulent PPP loans on behalf of himself and his accomplices. Combined, the 118 loan applications requested more than $2.3 million in PPP funds. With each loan application, Rivero forged last year’s sole proprietorship income and expenses and filed fraudulent IRS tax forms. Rivero and his accomplices received approximately $900,000 in PPP loans as a result of the fraud. As part of his plea deal, Rivero agreed to forfeit that entire amount.

US Attorney Juan Antonio Gonzalez for the Southern District of Florida; Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. from the Criminal Division of the Ministry of Justice; Special Agent Matthew Line of the IRS-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Miami Office; and Special Representative Amelake McCall-Brathwaite of the United States Small Business Administration, Office of the Inspector General (SBA-OIG), Investigations Division, Eastern Regional Office, made the announcement.

The IRS-CI has investigated the matter with the help of SBA-OIG.

US Assistant Attorney for South Florida Christopher Browne and trial attorney Della Sentilles of the Fraud Division of the Criminal Division have prosecuted the case. South Florida’s assistant attorney Nicole Grosnoff handled the asset forfeiture.

On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to pool the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with government agencies to strengthen efforts to fight and prevent pandemic fraud. The Task Force is strengthening efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assist agencies charged with managing emergency programs to prevent fraud, including by expanding and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, resources and identifying techniques to detect fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and leveraging information and insights gained from past enforcement efforts. To learn more about the department’s response to the pandemic, visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.

Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud with COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or using the NCDF web complaint form at https: //www. justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.

Related court documents and information can be found on the District Court for the Southern District of Florida website at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or at http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov, under case number 21-cr-20160 .

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