The coronavirus pandemic has simultaneously brought out the worst and the best in humanity. While some have rallied together to support their communities, fraudsters have sought to exploit programs meant to aid those struggling financially.
One of these fraudsters, Jean R. Lavanture, 48, of Saugerties, New York, recently pled guilty to conspiring to commit bank fraud and conspiring to commit wire fraud. He admitted to fraudulently obtaining $4,870,781 in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster (EIDL) loans.
Lavanture and his co-conspirator Sean M. Andre stole millions from COVID-19 relief programs designed to help small businesses struggling to stay afloat financially during the coronavirus pandemic. Lavanture admitted to conspiring with Andre to obtain $4,309,581 in PPP loans between June and August 2020. (Imagine how many small businesses and struggling families this money could have helped.)
The duo submitted fraudulent loan applications in the names of four 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 forged as part of the scheme. Lavanture later admitted that none of his companies had the payroll or employees that were listed on the applications. (Too little honesty, too late.)
Lavanture also admitted that, on his own, he fraudulently obtained $561,200 in EIDLs from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). As a result of pleading guilty, Lavanture agreed to pay restitution in the amount of $4,870,781, and to forfeit proceeds of the fraud. (That was the only smart move this man made.)
In total, he will be forfeiting 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 located across 9 banks, into which he deposited fraud proceeds. (What a random assortment of assets.)
Lavanture faces up to 30 years in prison for bank fraud conspiracy and up to 20 years in prison for wire fraud conspiracy when he is sentenced on January 6, 2022. Lavanture is the third person to plead guilty in this case. (The government didn’t let anyone get away with their crimes in this case.)
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 also scheduled for January 6, 2022.
Jamur Pharmes, age 43, of Hampton, Ga., 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 December 9, 2021.
Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from a Department of Justice press release, “Ulster County Man Pleads Guilty to Conspiring to Commit COVID-19 Relief Fraud,” published on September 2, 2021.
ALBANY, NEW YORK – Jean R. Lavanture, a/k/a “JR,” a/k/a “Rudy Lavanture,” age 48, of Saugerties, New York, pled guilty today to conspiring to commit bank fraud and conspiring to commit wire fraud, and admitted to fraudulently obtaining $4,870,781 in government-backed loans meant for businesses struggling with the financial effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Lavanture is the third person to plead guilty in this case.
The announcement was made by Acting United States Attorney Antoinette T. Bacon and Janeen DiGuiseppi, Special Agent in Charge of the Albany Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).