A Miami pastor was sentenced to 48 months in prison for participating in a fraud scheme that solicited more than $1 million in loans from a COVID-19 relief program, the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida announced on Tuesday.
Eli Floridin, 59, the self-styled senior pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church, allegedly sent a middleman repeatedly false Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) applications under Aid, Relief and Economic Security by the Coronavirus (CARES), authorities said. was presented.
The applications sought federal COVID-19 aid funds for businesses that did not exist. One of these was a bogus employment agency through which Floridyn claimed to pay dozens of employees approximately $960,000 in annual wages, while no such business actually existed, according to prosecutors.
After receiving an initial PPP loan of approximately $200,000, Floridin sought to submit three more fraudulent PPP applications on behalf of his non-existent recruiting agency, in order to receive approximately $600,000 in additional loans, however these additional funds were declined. was given.
Following Floridyn’s guilty plea, the government became aware of another prior fraudulent PPP loan, successfully filed on behalf of another corporate entity under Floridyn’s name, resulting in the defendant receiving approximately $336,000 in additional PPP funds. The disbursement took place, an agreement was reached with the officials.
The US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida reported that at sentencing, Floridin admitted that he fraudulently solicited more than $1 million, and received more than half that amount in illegally obtained COVID-19 relief funds.
In addition to his prison sentence, Floridin was ordered to return $535,996 to the United States.
CARES was signed into law in March 2020 and was created to provide emergency financial assistance to millions of Americans who have faced the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Among other sources of relief, the CARES Act PPP program allowed small businesses and other eligible organizations to receive loans with maturities of two years and an interest rate of 1%.
Proceeds from the PPP loan were to be used by businesses on payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent and utilities.
The PPP allowed forgiveness of interest and principal on PPP loans if the business spent the loan proceeds on these expenses within a specified time after receiving the funds and used at least a certain percentage of the PPP loan proceeds for payroll expenses. . ,
On September 15, 2022, the Attorney General selected the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida to lead one of three national COVID-19 Fraud Strike Force teams.
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