DADE CITY — A Pasco County resident has been charged with fraud for misusing federal PPP loan money, including allegations he spent more than $170,000 on a new Mercedes and Ford F-250 truck.
Keith William Nicoletta, 48, of Dade City, was charged with bank fraud and illegal monetary transactions, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s office in Tampa. According to the unsealing of a criminal complaint against Nicoletta, in or about May, Nicoletta fraudulently secured more than $1.9 million in emergency funds associated with the Paycheck Protection Program. The program, which Congress authorized in April, allows qualifying small businesses and other organizations to receive loans with a maturity of two years and an interest rate of 1%. Through the SBA, PPP loan rules stipulate that the funds have to be used for payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent and utilities
Nicoletta’s PPP loan application, authorities allege, falsely claimed Nicoletta had a local scrap metal business with 69 employees whose purported monthly payroll expenses exceeded $760,000 — more than $9 million annually. In truth, officials say Nicoletta had reported no wages to the State of Florida for any employees for 2019 or 2020.
“Once the emergency loan was secured, Nicoletta did not use the PPP funds for qualified expenses,” the release states. “Instead, he immediately laundered the money, transferring it between various accounts at different financial institutions. He also withdrew over $100,000 in cash. Nicoletta then purchased a 2020 Mercedes for more than $106,000 and a 2020 special edition Ford F-250 pickup valued at over $66,000. He also wired approximately $537,000 to a property management company in south Florida. None of the money was used for payroll.”
If convicted, Nicoletta faces a maximum penalty of 40 years in federal prison. The FBI and the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, Tampa Field Office investigated the case.
Nicoletta is at least the second person in the region federal authorities have charged with allegedly falsely using PPP loan funds. In early September, Target Roofing & Sheet Metal Inc. President Casey David Crowther, of Fort Myers, was charged with using federal coronavirus relief funds for personal use, including buying a 40-foot boat for nearly $700,000. Crowther applied for and received a loan of $2,098,700 under the federal Payroll Protection Program, according to that case’s criminal complaint.