Ulster County Man Sentenced to 60 Months for Conspiring to Commit COVID-19 Relief Fraud
ALBANY, NEW YORK – Jean R. Lavanture, a/k/a “JR,” a/k/a “Rudy Lavanture,” age 49, of Saugerties, New York, was sentenced today to 60 months in prison for conspiring to commit bank fraud and conspiring to commit wire fraud.
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).
Lavanture pled guilty on September 2, 2021, admitting to fraudulently obtaining $4,870,781 in government-backed loans meant for businesses struggling with the financial effects of the coronavirus pandemic. He conspired with Sean M. Andre to 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 inactive companies that Lavanture controlled. Each loan application grossly misrepresented each company’s employees and payroll. Each application also included false corporate tax documents that Andre created as part of the scheme. Lavanture admitted that none of his companies actually had a payroll or employees.
Lavanture also admitted that, on his own, he fraudulently obtained $561,200 in Economic Injury Disaster Loans (“EIDLs”) from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
Chief United States District Judge Glenn T. Suddaby also imposed a 3-year term of post-imprisonment supervised release, ordered Lavanture to pay restitution in the amount of $4,870,781, and ordered Lavanture to forfeit proceeds of the fraud, including a motel property he purchased in Rockaway Beach, Missouri; $476,253.25 in U.S. currency; a 2007 Bentley Continental; a 2013 BMW X5; and the balances of 19 bank accounts at a total of 9 banks, into which Lavanture had deposited fraud proceeds.
Andre, age 31, of Brooklyn, New York, pled guilty on May 26, 2021 to conspiring to commit bank fraud and conspiring to commit wire fraud. Andre’s sentencing is scheduled for February 24, 2022.
Jamur Pharmes, age 44, of Hampton, Georgia, pled guilty on July 1, 2021 to conspiring to commit wire fraud. He admitted that he and Lavanture conspired to submit fraudulent EIDL applications in the names of two companies connected to Pharmes. Pharmes obtained approximately $159,900 as a result of the scheme, and paid a $10,000 fee to Lavanture. Pharmes is scheduled to be sentenced on February 24, 2022.
This case was investigated by the FBI, Internal Revenue Service (IRS)-Criminal Investigation, and the SBA Office of Inspector General, 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.