Earlier today, in federal court in Brooklyn, Keily Nunez, a former JetBlue Airways employee, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with false statements Nunez made to obtain loans for himself and his coconspirators pursuant to the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program. Nunez and four coconspirators were charged in June 2021. Today’s proceeding was held before United States District Judge Raymond J. Dearie.
In connection with the scheme, five other defendants previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud: Orlando Sanay, Michael Pimentel Veloz, Fanny Plasencia, Ramon Osvaldo Pena, and Angel K. Colon. In addition, codefendant Keimi Nunez previously pleaded guilty to wire fraud. When sentenced, all defendants face up to 20 years in prison and have agreed to forfeit the fraudulently obtained loan funds.
Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Ricky J. Patel, Special Agent-in-Charge, Homeland Security Investigations, New York (HSI), announced the guilty pleas.
“Each of the defendants admitted to their part in stealing nearly $1.5 million from a government program designed to help struggling small businesses and families survive the pandemic,” stated United States Attorney Peace. “This Office will continue to aggressively prosecute those who seek to enrich themselves by abusing government programs.”
“Nunez and his co-conspirators fleeced the government to the tune of over $1.5 million, taking advantage of programs designed to keep small businesses afloat during a time of unprecedented economic volatility,” said HSI New York Acting Special Agent in Charge Ricky J. Patel. “Since the early days of the COVID-19 global pandemic, HSI has been committed to uncovering pandemic fraud and holding accountable those who take advantage of tragedy to turn a profit.”
The EIDL program provides qualifying small businesses with low-interest loans. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act expanded EIDL to provide economic support to help offset the temporary loss of revenue experienced by businesses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As set forth in court filings, between April 2020 and November 2020, the defendants applied for EIDL loans for eleven separate entities. In those applications, the defendants falsely represented the number of employees associated with the entities and misstated the gross revenues for the entities 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 Chief Operating Officer and Nunez was the manager of FI USA Consulting LLC (FI USA). In the application, Nunez falsely claimed that FI USA had 42 employees and gross revenues of $672,137 for the relevant period. The SBA approved FI USA’s application and on July 13, 2020 wired $149,900 to FI USA’s bank account. In contrast to the claims made in the application, New York Department of Labor records showed that FI USA never reported having any employees. Internal Revenue Service records further revealed that FI USA never filed a tax return since its formation in 2017. There is no evidence that the EIDL funds provided to FI USA were used for business purposes.
Based on the defendants’ false representations, the Small Business Administration approved approximately $1.5 million in loans that were deposited into the defendants’ bank accounts.
In addition to making false statements to obtain the loans, the defendants did not use the relief funding for ongoing business expenses as the EIDL program requires. Instead, they withdrew hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash from bank accounts that had received EIDL loan funds.
When sentenced, all defendants face up to 20 years in prison and have agreed to forfeit the fraudulently obtained loan funds.
The case is being handled by the Office’s Business and Securities Fraud Section. Department of Justice Trial Attorney Patrick J. Campbell and Assistant United States Attorney Garen S. Marshall are in charge of the prosecution, Assistant United States Attorney Tanisha Payne of the Office’s Asset Recovery Section is handling forfeiture matters.
Jamaica, New York
Elizabeth, New Jersey
Woodhaven, New York
MICHAEL PIMENTEL VELOZ
Garfield, New Jersey
Jamaica, New York
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 21-CR-496 (RJD)
RAMON OSVALDO PENA
Maywood, New Jersey
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 21-CR-560 (RJD)
ANGEL K. COLON
Garfield, New Jersey
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 22-CR-202 (RJD)
Danielle Blustein Hass
United States Attorney’s Office