Florida man gets 5 years for COVID-19 relief and tax evasion


ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A Florida man convicted of fraudulently raising more than $1.3 million in COVID-19 relief funds has been sentenced to five years in prison.

Johnson Eustache, of Palm Bay, was sentenced in federal court in Orlando on Tuesday, court records show. He pleaded guilty in August to wire fraud and aiding and abetting the preparation of false tax returns. He must also confiscate approximately $700,000 seized from several bank accounts, as well as real estate in Palm Bay and Poinciana.

According to court documents, Eustache submitted 13 different fraudulent Economic Disaster Loan and Paycheck Protection Program applications to the Small Business Administration and other lenders from March 2020 to April 2021. In total, he claimed more than $2.1 million in pandemic-related emergency benefits, the documents show.

Eustache included false statements in the applications regarding criminal history, number of employees and total payroll, prosecutors said.

Lenders approved four PPP loans and four EIDL loans, totaling more than $1.3 million, officials said. Eustache used the money to make personal financial investments, to buy real estate, and to build residential properties.

In addition to pandemic-related fraud, Eustache, while working as a tax preparer, filed 28 taxpayer returns from 2017 to 2021 that contained false adjustments, false income amounts or false deductions, the authorities said. investigators. Eustache fraudulently included these bogus items to inflate the amount of taxpayer refunds, and the total loss to the IRS was $87,044, officials said.

The Paycheck Protection Program represents billions of dollars in repayable small business loans for Americans struggling because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s part of the coronavirus relief program that became federal law in 2020.


Follow AP’s coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.


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