Astatula Businessman Charged With $44 Million Bank Fraud Scheme
Orlando, Florida - Acting United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III announces the unsealing of an indictment charging Pedro Benevides (44, Astatula) with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, nine counts of bank fraud, and nine counts of making false statements to financial institutions. If convicted, Benevides faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison and a $1million fine for each of the nineteen charged counts. The indictment also notifies Benevides that the United States is seeking a money judgment in the amount of $44,059,565.00, the proceeds of the charged conspiracy.
According to the indictment, from about 2005 through about September 2008, Benevides, using several businesses that he controlled, participated in a conspiracy and a fraudulent scheme to obtain $44,059,565.00 in various loans from federally insured financial institutions. Benevides allegedly submitted and caused the submission of documents to those institutions that contained materially false and fraudulent information. In particular, he submitted and caused the submission of documents that, among other things: (a) contained false information concerning the income and assets of the person or entity in whose name Benevides sought the loans, mortgages, and lines of credit; (b) were false and forged business and personal tax return documents; (c) were false and forged financial statements that purported to be from financial institutions; (d) were false and forged bank statements; (e) were a false and forged official checks; and (f) were false and forged correspondence from a title and escrow company that purported to show funds held for the benefit of entities that Benevides controlled, which funds did not actually exist.
On occasion, Benevides also submitted false loan applications supported by the false documents and signed documents certifying the accuracy of the false documents. Once Benevides obtained the loans, he used the funds from the loans to pay the interest and principal on previously obtained loans, which he had also obtained through fraud. Benevides also used the funds from the loans to fund his lifestyle and the businesses he controlled.
An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of the federal criminal laws, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.
This case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations, the United States Secret Service, and the St. Cloud IRS-USSS Federal Financial Crimes Task Force. It will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Daniel C. Irick.