COVID Feature: A Rocky Road

Hacking and criminal concept.A hacker in a secret hiding place is neon light.

Sean M. Andre, 30, of Brooklyn, N.Y., is accused of working with Jean R. Lavanture, 48, of Saugerties, N.Y., to fraudulently obtain more than $4 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans meant for businesses financially struggling due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Fraudsters are always going after money they are ineligible to receive.)

Andre is facing charges for conspiracy to commit bank fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and engaging in transfers of wire fraud and bank fraud proceeds of a value greater than $10,000. Lavanture has been charged by indictment with three counts of bank fraud. (Translation: they’re in a heap of trouble.)

A criminal complaint alleges that Andre and Lavanture conspired to fraudulently obtain more than $4,184,781 in PPP loans between June 24, 2020 and August 13, 2020 for companies that were under Lavanture’s control. Andre was paid at least $157,578 for his role in the scheme. (Taking money from struggling Americans isn’t going to look good to a judge or jury.)

The duo allegedly submitted PPP loan applications fraudulently claiming Lavanture owned and operated multiple companies. Each company, which supposedly had dozens of employees on their payrolls, claimed to be responsible for millions of dollars in salaries each year. (The only checks they were interested in signing were to themselves.)

Investigators discovered that none of the companies listed on the applications reported employees to the New York State Department of Labor nor income to the Internal Revenue Service. (Thankfully, the government keeps detailed records.)

Andre faces up to 30 years in prison to be followed by up to 5 years of supervised release if convicted on the charges against him. He could also be required to pay a maximum fine of $1 million, or twice his gross gain, or his victims’ gross loss. (Whichever hurts both his pocketbook and his pride more would be the best option.)

The indictment against Lavanture also seeks the forfeiture of assets that he allegedly obtained from this scheme. This includes a mansion in Byram Township, N.J.; $614,479.70 in cash that federal agents found in the mansion; a motel in Rockaway Beach, Mo.; a 2007 Bentley Continental GTC; and funds from 17 bank accounts. (Looks like Lavanture is going to lose a few precious possessions if found guilty of fraud.)  

Keep in mind that the charges in the complaint against Andre and Lavanture are merely allegations. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from a Department of Justice press release, “Brooklyn Man Charged with Conspiring to Commit COVID-19 Relief Fraud,” dated February 10, 2021.

ALBANY, NEW YORK – Sean M. Andre, age 30, of Brooklyn, New York, appeared in court today on a complaint alleging that he worked with an Ulster County man to fraudulently obtain more than $4 million in government-backed loans meant for businesses struggling with the financial effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

The announcement was made by Acting United States Attorney Antoinette T. Bacon; Thomas F. Relford, Special Agent in Charge of the Albany Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); Jonathan D. Larsen, Special Agent in Charge, New York Field Office, Internal Revenue Service (IRS)-Criminal Investigation; and Amaleka McCall-Brathwaite, Special Agent in Charge of the Eastern Region of the Office of Inspector General for the Small Business Administration (SBA-OIG).



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Larry Benson, Senior Director of Strategic Alliances, LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

Larry Benson is responsible for developing strategic partnerships and solutions for the government vertical. His expertise focuses on how government programs are defrauded by criminal groups, and the approaches necessary to prevent them from succeeding.

Mr. Benson has 30 years of experience in sales and business development. Before joining LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, he spent 12 years founding and managing two software technology startups. During the 1990s he spent 10 years as a Regional Director helping to grow a New England-based technology company from 300 employees to 7,000. He started his career with Martin Marietta Aerospace working on laser guided weapons and day/night vision systems.

A sought-after speaker and accomplished writer, Mr. Benson is the principal author of “Fraud of the Day,” a website dedicated to educating government officials about how criminals are defrauding government programs. He has co-authored WTF? Where’s the Fraud? How to Unmask and Stop Identity Fraud’s Drain on Our Government, and Data Personified, How Fraud is Changing the Meaning of Identity.

Benson holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Albright College, and earned two graduate degrees – a Master of Business Administration from Florida Institute of Technology, and a Master of Science in Engineering from Lehigh University.