Former JetBlue employee pleads guilty to COVID loan fraud
U.S. Attorney of Brooklyn, Breon Peace
By the forum team
In federal court in Brooklyn on Tuesday, Jamaican resident Keily Nunez, a former employee of JetBlue Airways, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with false statements Nunez made to obtain loans for him. himself and his co-conspirators pursuant to the Economic Disaster Loan (EIDL program).
Nunez and four accomplices were charged in June 2021.
According to federal prosecutors, in connection with this scheme, five other defendants previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud: Orlando Sanay, Michael Pimentel Veloz, Fanny Plasencia of Jamaica, Ramon Osvaldo Pena and Angel K. Colon . Additionally, co-defendant Keimi Nunez, of Woodhaven, previously pleaded guilty to wire fraud. Once convicted, all defendants face up to 20 years in prison and have agreed to forfeit fraudulently obtained loan funds.
The EIDL program provides eligible small businesses with low-interest loans. The
The CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act) expanded the EIDL to provide economic support to compensate for the temporary loss of revenue suffered by businesses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As noted in court filings, between April 2020 and November 2020, defendants applied for EIDL loans for eleven separate entities. In these claims, the defendants misrepresented the number of employees associated with the entities and misrepresented the entities’ gross revenues for the 12 months prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For example, Nunez submitted a loan application to the Small Business Association (SBA) in April 2020, claiming that Plasencia was the COO and Nunez was the director of FI USA Consulting LLC (FI USA). In the application, Nunez falsely asserted that FI USA had 42 employees and gross revenues of $672,137 for the relevant period. The SBA approved FI USA’s request and on July 13, 2020 wired $149,900 to FI USA’s bank account.
Contrary to claims made in the application, New York Department of Labor records showed that FI USA never claimed to have any employees. Internal Revenue Service records further revealed that FI USA had never filed a tax return since its inception in 2017. There is no evidence that EIDL funds provided to FI USA were used for business purposes.
Based on defendants’ misrepresentations, the Small Business Administration approved approximately $1.5 million in loans that were deposited into defendants’ bank accounts.
In addition to making false statements to obtain the loans, the defendants failed to use the relief funding for ongoing business expenses as required by the EIDL program. Instead, they withdrew hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash from bank accounts that had received EIDL loan funds.
Once convicted, all defendants face up to 20 years in prison and have agreed to forfeit fraudulently obtained loan funds.