BOSTON (AP) — A former Massachusetts resident has been charged by prosecutors with fraudulently obtaining $2.5 million in federal relief funds for struggling businesses during the coronavirus pandemic and using the money to buy cars and invest in cryptocurrency.
Vinicius Santana, 34, who used to live in Saugus and now lives in Boca Raton, Fla., was arrested earlier this week in Florida and will appear in Massachusetts federal court at a later date to face a wire fraud charge. , according to a statement Wednesday from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston.
No defense attorney was listed in court records.
Santana submitted four different Paycheck Protection Program loan applications on behalf of his paint business in April 2020, prosecutors said.
Three, in which he said he had only a handful of employees and an average monthly payroll of no more than $18,000, were denied. In the fourth, Santana said he had 154 employees and an average monthly payroll of $1 million. Those numbers were bogus, prosecutors said, but nonetheless, the application was approved and he received a $2.5 million loan.
Santana used the money to buy a home, pay off auto loans and purchase vehicles, and invest in cryptocurrency, prosecutors said.
The Paycheck Protection Program provided forgivable loans to struggling small businesses during the pandemic, to be used for job retention and certain other approved expenses.
If found guilty, Santana faces up to 20 years in prison.