Tax preparer convicted in COVID-19 fraud scheme | OPA – Community News
Covid-19

Tax preparer convicted in COVID-19 fraud scheme | OPA

A South Florida tax preparer was today sentenced to two years in prison for committing a plan to fraudulently obtain more than 100 COVID-19 relief loans under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

According to court documents, Leonel Rivero, 35, of Miami, owned a tax preparation company and filed about 118 fraudulent PPP loan applications 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.

Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. from the Criminal Division of the Ministry of Justice; US Attorney Juan Antonio Gonzalez for the Southern District of Florida; Special Agent Matthew Line of the IRS-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Miami Office; and Special Representative Amaleka 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 the SBA-OIG.

Attorney Della Sentilles of the Fraud Section of the Criminal Division and Assistant US Attorney Christopher Browne of the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida are pursuing the case. Assistant US Attorney Nicole Grosnoff handled the asset forfeiture of the case.

The Fraud Department leads the criminal prosecution of fraud schemes where the PPP is misused. Since the inception of the CARES Act, the Fraud Section has prosecuted more than 150 defendants in more than 95 criminal cases and obtained more than $75 million in cash proceeds from fraudulently obtained PPP funds, as well as numerous real estate and luxury items purchased with such revenues. More information can be found at https://www.justice.gov/criminal-fraud/ppp-fraud.

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.