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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, February 24, 2022

Former MTA Special Inspector Sentenced for COVID-19 Relief Fraud

ALBANY, NEW YORK – Sean M. Andre, age 32, of Brooklyn, New York, was sentenced today to 30 months in prison for conspiring with an Ulster County man to fraudulently obtain more than $5.6 million in government-backed loans meant for businesses struggling with the financial effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

The announcement was made by United States Attorney Carla B. Freedman and Janeen DiGuiseppi, Special Agent in Charge of the Albany Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Chief United States District Judge Glenn T. Suddaby also imposed a 2-year term of supervised release, ordered Andre to pay $1,309,754 in restitution to his victims, and ordered Andre to forfeit $32,900 in U.S. currency, the balances of six bank accounts totaling $365,613.09, and a 2019 Mercedes Benz GLS, all previously seized by the FBI. 

Andre pled guilty last May to conspiring to commit bank fraud and conspiring to commit wire fraud.  He admitted to helping Jean R. Lavanture obtain $4,309,581 in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans between June and August 2020, by submitting fraudulent loan applications in the names of four companies that Lavanture controlled.  Each loan application misrepresented the number of employees, and total payroll, that each company had, and included false tax documents that Andre created as part of the scheme.  Andre was paid $157,578 for his role in the scheme.

Andre also admitted that he fraudulently obtained an additional $1,309,754 in pandemic relief loans, by submitting loan applications in the names of companies he controlled.  In these loan applications, Andre lied about the number of employees, and total payroll, that his companies had.

Andre was a Special Inspector for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), in New York City, at the time of his crimes.

Lavanture, age 49, of Saugerties, New York, was sentenced last month to 60 months in prison

This case was investigated by the FBI, as well as Internal Revenue Service (IRS)-Criminal Investigation and the Small Business Administration, Office of Inspector General (SBA-OIG), and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Barnett and Joshua R. Rosenthal.

On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. The Task Force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud by, among other methods, augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts. For more information on the Department’s response to the pandemic, please visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.

Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.

Topic(s): 
Coronavirus
Financial Fraud
Updated February 24, 2022