TAMPA, Fla. — A Florida man who received more than $1.9 million in coronavirus relief funds is accused of laundering the money through a fake business, and also buying a Mercedes and a pickup truck, prosecutors said Friday.
Keith William Nicoletta, 48, of Dade City, was arrested earlier this week, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Justice. In a criminal complaint unsealed Friday, Nicoletta was charged with bank fraud and illegal monetary transactions. If convicted, Nicoletta faces up to 40 years in federal prison.
According to prosecutors U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Middle District of Florida, Nicoletta applied for a small business loan through the Payroll Protection Program, which was earmarked for small businesses struggling because of the coronavirus pandemic. The PPP was part of the coronavirus relief package that became federal law as part of the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act in March.
Prosecutors allege that Nicoletta falsely claimed on his loan application that he owned a scrap metal business with 69 employees and had a monthly payroll that exceeded $760,000, according to the release. According to prosecutors, that amounted to $9 million annually, but Nicoletta had reported no wages to the state of Florida for any employees for 2019 or 2020.
Once Nicoletta received the money, prosecutors claim that he transferred the money between various accounts and withdrew more than $100,000 in cash. Prosecutors also allege that Nicoletta bought a 2020 Mercedes for $105,000 and a 2020 special edition Ford F-250 pickup for $66,000. He also allegedly wired approximately $537,000 to a property management company in South Florida.
None of the money was used for payroll, the release stated.
Once the emergency loan was secured, Nicoletta transferred the money between various accounts and withdrew more than $100,000 in cash, officials said. Nicoletta then purchased a 2020 Mercedes and a 2020 special edition Ford F-250 pickup. He also wired approximately $537,000 to a property management company in South Florida.
An attorney for Nicoletta did not respond to a message seeking comment.
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