Ulster County man charged with $5M COVID-19 relief fraud

New York News
Coronavirus scam alert

Coronavirus scam alert. (Engadget)

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The Department of Justice reported Thursday that Jean R. Lavanture, aka Rudy Lavanture, 47, of Saugerties was arrested and charged with bank fraud after allegedly obtaining almost $5 million in coronavirus relief loans.

The bank fraud complaint against Lavanature alleges that the government-backed loans he received were actually coronavirus aid meant for struggling businesses. Acting U.S. Attorney Antoinette T. Bacon said, “According to the complaint, Jean Lavanture stole millions of dollars from important government programs created to help struggling communities during the pandemic.”

From June 16 to July 22, Lavanture reportedly received about $4,906,281 in both paycheck protection program and economic injury disaster loans, issued to his five Saugerties companies. The DOJ says he submitted fraudulent tax documentation to support his false representations of employees, revenues, and payroll. None of the companies had previously reported employees or income to the Department of Labor or IRS for 2017, 2018, or 2019.

The FBI arrested Lavanture on Thursday at a 5.6-acre estate in New Jersey that he bought with the alleged fraudulent funds. The IRS also helped with the investigation. He reportedly transferred $952,000 of the misappropriated funds to buy the Byram Township estate with an 18-room mansion.

The complaint also accuses Lavanture of using another $439,503.25 in cash for personal expenses. He also allegedly drew on the funds to buy a motel in Rockaway Beach, Missouri.

“The allegations against Mr. Lavanture are appalling,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Thomas F. Relford. “Small businesses have suffered devastating losses during the coronavirus pandemic and the FBI will not tolerate anyone who steals the funding designed to be a lifeline for those businesses.”

Lavanture faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted of bank fraud, along with up to five years of supervised release, and a maximum fine of either $1 million, twice his financial gain, or twice his victims’ financial loss, whichever is greatest.

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