Keith Nicoletta, of Dade City, Florida pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to launder $1.9 million in fraudulently-obtained Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. After making false claims on his loan application that he had a local scrap metal business, the FBI and IRS discovered his fraud when it was determined that no employee wages had been reported in 2019 or 2020.
About the Case
Nicoletta submitted a PPP claim for $1.9 million, stating that he had a local business with 69 employees. He claimed that of the $1.9 million, $760,000 was for payroll expenses. However, according to authorities, the address listed for his business was his own home, and Nicoletta appeared to have no employees or payroll to maintain.
Of the money claimed, Nicoletta attempted to launder the money, and transferred sums between various different accounts and banks. Additionally, he purchased several cars and trucks, as well as installing a home pool and withdrawing $100,000 in cash. He also transferred over $500,000 to another property management company also in Florida.
PPP Loan Fraud
PPP loans are provided as part of the Coronavirus Relief Fund under the CARES Act, and are intended to be used to keep businesses on their feet during the pandemic.
Nicoletta was originally investigated for crimes of bank fraud and money laundering, and ultimately pleaded guilty to the conspiracy to commit money laundering charge. As a result of this charge, Nicoletta forfeited the cars and trucks that he had purchased, and could face imprisonment up to 20 years.
Money laundering is a crime that involves knowingly and intentionally undertaking financial transactions with money that has come from an illegal activity. These charges are taken seriously by the Government due to the intention to:
“conceal or disguise the nature, the location, the source, the ownership, or the control of the proceeds.”
While this type of illegal activity generally comes to mind for the proceeds from drug sales, it applies for a variety of criminal charges as in this case, a fraudulent loan application.
The conspiracy charge comes from agreeing or conspiring with other people, who appear to currently remain unknown in the public record.
Defending PPP Fraud or Laundering Charges
If you have been accused of PPP fraud or money laundering, or have received a target of an investigation letter, call a criminal defense attorney immediately. Do not wait to start building your defense. Our lawyers are experienced in mitigating charges and reducing the penalties that may occur.
Our professional and diligent criminal defense team at Stechschulte Nell will listen to your side and strategize your best defense. Our Florida board-certified defense lawyer can help you. Start with a free case review or call our top-rated South Tampa law firm at 813-280-1244.
*Photo courtesy of ABC Action News