Little Valley Man Pleads Guilty For His Role In A Nearly $1,000,000 COVID-19 Relief Fraud Scheme
CONTACT: Barbara Burns
PHONE: (716) 843-5817
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BUFFALO, NY – U.S. Attorney Trini E. Ross announced today that Adam Arena, 44, of Little Valley, NY, pleaded guilty before Senior U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and engaging in monetary transactions with criminally derived proceeds for his role in fraudulently obtaining and laundering nearly $1 million in funds from the COVID-19 relief Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The charges carry a maximum penalty of 30 years and a $1,000,000 fine.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura A. Higgins and Cory E. Jacobs of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, who are handling the case, stated that in May 2020, Arena reinstated his previously inactive business, ADA Auto Group, which had been inactive since 2018. Arena then provided his date of birth, social security number, address, and ADA Auto Group’s Employer Identification Number, Articles of Incorporation, along with a bank account number, for the purpose of facilitating the preparation of a fraudulent Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan. On July 27, co-defendant Amanda J. Gloria submitted a PPP loan application for ADA Auto Group to a financial institution via email seeking a $954,000 loan. Along with the application, Gloria submitted fraudulent supporting documents, including tax forms and payroll reports. These documents claimed ADA Auto Group employed 50 people in 2019 with an annual payroll of more than $4.4 million. On August 10, 2020, Arena directed the financial institution to wire the proceeds of the approved PPP loan for ADA Auto Group into a business account controlled exclusively by him. On September 11, 2020, Arena paid Gloria approximately $24,135 in PPP funds for facilitating the submission of the fraudulent PPP loan application. None of the funds Arena received were ever used for business-related expenses.
Charges remain pending against Amanda J. Gloria. The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act is a federal law enacted on March 29, 2020, designed to provide emergency financial assistance to the millions of Americans who are suffering the economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. One source of relief provided by the CARES Act was the authorization of up to $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses for job retention and certain other expenses, through the PPP. In April 2020, Congress authorized over $300 billion in additional PPP funding.
The PPP allows qualifying small businesses and other organizations to receive loans with a maturity of two years and an interest rate of 1%. PPP loan proceeds must be used by businesses on payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities. The PPP allows the interest and principal on the PPP loan to be forgiven if the business spends the loan proceeds on these expense items within a designated period of time after receiving the proceeds and uses at least a certain percentage of the PPP loan proceeds on payroll expenses.
The Fraud Section leads the Department of Justice’s prosecution of fraud schemes that exploit the CARES Act. In the months since the CARES Act was passed, Fraud Section attorneys have prosecuted more than 100 defendants in more than 70 criminal cases. The Fraud Section has also seized more than $65 million in cash proceeds derived from fraudulently obtained PPP funds, as well as numerous real-estate properties and luxury items purchased with such proceeds. More information can be found at: https://www.justice.gov/criminal-fraud/cares-act-fraud.
Anyone with general information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Justice Department’s National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.
The plea is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Stephen Belongia and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division, under the direction of Thomas Fattorusso, Special Agent-in-Charge.
Sentencing is scheduled for March 2, 2022, at 10:00 a.m. before Judge Skretny.
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