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Florida man gets 7 years for US$2.6M COVID-19 relief fraud

A disposable facemask. (Pexels/Anna Shvets) A disposable facemask. (Pexels/Anna Shvets)

A Florida man has been sentenced to seven years and three months in federal prison for stealing more than US$2.6 million in COVID-19 relief funds.

Daniel Joseph Tisone, 35, of Naples, was sentenced Tuesday in Fort Myers federal court, court documents show. He pleaded guilty last August to wire fraud, bank fraud, illegal monetary transaction and possession of ammunition by a convicted felon.

"Daniel Joseph Tisone seriously abused three federal programs that used taxpayers' money to aid struggling small businesses through the pandemic," Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery Brian Miller said in a statement. "SIGPR is glad to have played a significant role teaming with other law enforcement agencies and the United States Attorney's Office to hold Mr. Tisone accountable."

Tisone submitted false and fraudulent applications to the Small Business Administration and banks seeking several different kinds of loans between March 2020 and April 2021, according to the documents. Prosecutors said the applications contained false information about Tisone's criminal history, average monthly payroll, number of employees and gross revenues. Tisone also submitted false payroll and tax documents, as well as a fake commercial lease, investigators said.

Tisone received one Main Street Lending Program loan, four Economic Injury Disaster Loans and five Paycheck Protection Program loans, totaling more than US$2.6 million, authorities said. He allegedly used the money to buy two homes in Naples, stocks and investment securities, a 2019 Tiara 34LS boat, a 4.02-carat engagement ring and ammunition. As part of his plea agreement, Tisone must pay back the money and forfeit the homes, boat and ring.

The Paycheck Protection Program involves billions of dollars in forgivable small-business loans for Americans struggling because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The money must be used to pay employees, mortgage interest, rent and utilities. It is part of the coronavirus relief package that became federal law in 2020.

The Economic Injury Disaster Loan program is designed to provide economic relief to small businesses that are experiencing a temporary loss of revenue. The Main Street Lending Program was designed to provide support to small and medium-size businesses and their employees across the United States during the pandemic. Top Stories

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