MIAMI – The last of seven defendants in a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) fraud scheme has been sentenced. Yunior Barrera Almaguer (Barrera) 39, of Miami, Florida was sentenced to 87 months in prison for leading a conspiracy to defraud the PPP out of loan proceeds. These loans are guaranteed by the Small Business Administration under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.
Barrera was the leader of the conspiracy, who conspired with Jorge S. Alvarez, Dariel Garcia Carmona, Jose Raul Amaro, Leiner Pena Infante, Yandre Garcia Hernandez, Eduardo Ramos Leyva, and others to submit approximately 20 fraudulent PPP loan applications. According to facts admitted by the defendants as part of their guilty pleas, Barrera recruited his co-conspirators and others for necessary information to apply for the PPP loans, such as each business name and bank account routing number, and the business owner’s personal identifying information. Barrera then applied for the loans with an unindicted co-conspirator, causing approximately $9 million in fraudulently issued PPP loans. After each business received their PPP loans, Barrera instructed the co-conspirator business owners to give him blank, pre-signed checks drawn on the business so that Barrera could access the PPP funds. Barrera also instructed the co-conspirator business owners to write checks on the companies’ accounts at his direction. By doing so, Barrera and his co-conspirators laundered the fraudulently obtained loan funds by transferring the proceeds between their companies, to each other, and to others.
Barrera pled guilty on November 9, 2022, to one count of conspiracy to launder money. In addition to prison time, Barrera must pay $9,007,887 in restitution. Alvarez, Garcia Carmona, Amaro, Pena Infante, Garcia Hernandez, and Ramos Leyva also pled guilty for their roles in the conspiracy, were sentenced to imprisonment terms ranging from one year and one day to 36 months and must pay restitution in amounts ranging from $381,600 to $720,860.
U.S. Attorney Markenzy Lapointe for the Southern District of Florida and Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey B. Veltri of the FBI, Miami Field Office, announced the sentence imposed by U.S. District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks.
FBI Miami, West Palm Beach Resident Agency investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan Osborne prosecuted it. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Emily Stone and William T. Zloch are handling asset forfeiture.
In March 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act was enacted. It was designed to provide emergency financial assistance to the millions of Americans suffering the economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Among other sources of relief, the CARES Act authorized and provided funding to the SBA to provide Economic Injury Disaster Loans (“EIDLs”) to eligible small businesses, including sole proprietorships and independent contractors, experiencing substantial financial disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic to allow them to meet financial obligations and operating expenses that could otherwise have been met had the disaster not occurred. EIDL applications were submitted directly to the SBA via the SBA’s on-line application website, and the applications were processed and the loans funded for qualifying applicants directly by the SBA.
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.
Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or at http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov under case number 22-cr-80118.