covid-19 relief

Five Individuals, Including Airline Workers, Accused of COVID-19 Relief Fraud in NY

The group was charged in federal court in Brooklyn Thursday with wire fraud in connection with allegedly making false statements to obtain more than $1 million in loans from the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, prosecutors say

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What to Know

  • Five individuals, including current and former JetBlue employees, were charged in federal court in Brooklyn Thursday with wire fraud in connection with allegedly making false statements to obtain more than $1 million in loans from the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, a program intended to provide relief to small businesses during the pandemic, prosecutors say.
  • The EIDL program was expanded under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act and provides qualifying small businesses with low-interest loans.
  • Prosecutors say that in addition to making the false statements the defendants did not use the funds for any business purposes as required by the loan program.

Five individuals, including current and former JetBlue employees, were charged in federal court in Brooklyn Thursday with wire fraud in connection with allegedly making false statements to obtain more than $1 million in loans from the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, a program intended to provide relief to small businesses during the pandemic, prosecutors say.

Orlando Sanay, 39, Keily Nunez, 41, Keimi Nunez, 41, Michael Veloz, 40, and Fanny Plasencia, 20, were arrested early Thursday by agents of the U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

The EIDL program was expanded under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act and provides qualifying small businesses with low-interest loans.

Prosecutors say that between April and August of last year the defendants applied for EIDL loans for eight separate entities. In their applications they are accused of falsely stating the number of employees of the entities and misstating their gross revenues for the twelve months prior to the pandemic. 

In one instance, Keimi Nunez and Orlando Sanay submitted a loan application stating that Sanay was the owner and chief executive officer of Sanay Venture Capital LLC falsely claiming they had 26 employees and gross revenues of $839,000.  They submitted the loan application from the IP address of their employer, JetBlue Airways.  The loan was approved and the government wired $139,400 to Sanay’s personal bank account.  Prosecutors say there is no evidence the funds were used for business purposes.  Nunez is no longer employed by JetBlue.

Prosecutors say that in addition to making the false statements the defendants did not use the funds for any business purposes as required by the loan program.

“As alleged, the defendants brazenly lied and stole more than $1 million in taxpayer funds from a program designed to help small businesses and their employees who were struggling to stay afloat and make ends meet during the pandemic,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Mark J. Lesko.

HSI Special Agent in Charge Peter C. Fitzhugh said, “This is a team of fraudsters who didn’t just skim from a government agency, but stole much-needed relief from the hands of those who depended on it most.”

All the defendants will appear in federal court in Brooklyn later today.  If convicted, each faces up to 20 years in prison.

Attorney information for the accused was not immediately known.

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