A Polk County couple has been charged in an alleged PPP loan scheme where authorities say they created at least 70 false loan applications seeking nearly $6 million. They then allegedly used some of the funds to pay off a luxury car, gamble at least $62,000 at a casino and take a Facebook video in a hotel room “littered” with $100 bills.
Julio Lugo, 44, and Rosenide Venant, 37, both of Davenport, have been charged with conspiracy and making false statements to a financial institution, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s office. Lugo has also been charged with an illegal monetary transaction relating to the illegal use of coronavirus relief funds to pay off a note on a luxury car purchased during the conspiracy.
Lugo and Venant, authorities allege, used their home IP-address to submit the false and fraudulent loan applications seeking funds from the Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. The fraudulent loan applications requested more than $5.8 million, including for shell companies established by Lugo, Venant and their relatives, authorities contend. The conspirators also secured coronavirus relief funds for a defunct tax-preparation company Lugo previously used to perpetrate a tax fraud in or around 2015, adds the statement from Middle District of Florida Acting U.S. Attorney Karin Hoppmann.
Once the emergency loans were secured, the conspirators misused the PPP and EIDL funds by paying off a luxury vehicle, spending more than $62,000 at casinos and for other personal purposes, officials allege. “Additionally, the conspirators withdrew at least $320,000 in cash,” the release from the U.S. Attorney’s office states. “Lugo publicized the misuse of the SBA funds in a Facebook video featuring a hotel room littered with $100 bills and at least $5,000 in merchandise from Louis Vuitton.”
If convicted, Lugo faces a maximum penalty of 45 years in federal prison, while Venant, if convicted, faces up to 35 years. The FBI and the IRS–Criminal Investigation Tampa Field Office investigated the case and Assistant United States Attorney Kristen A. Fiore is prosecuting it.