California man convicted of using $27M in PPP loans for personal use, including renting oceanfront property
(Gray News) – A California man was convicted Monday on multiple finance fraud charges, including using fraudulently obtained PPP loans to rent out beachfront property in Santa Monica, according to the Department of Justice.
According to a release from the DOJ, 53-year-old Robert Benlevi submitted 27 Paycheck Protection Program loan applications to four banks between April and June of 2022 on behalf of eight companies he owned.
The DOJ said he sought a total of $27 million in forgivable PPP loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.
Benlevi reportedly represented that each of his companies had 100 employees and average monthly payroll expenses of $400,000, even though he knew the companies did not have any employees or payroll expenses, the DOJ said.
Evidence at trial also reportedly showed that Benlevi submitted fabricated IRS documents falsely stating each of the companies had an annual payroll of $4.8 million.
Three of Benlevi’s companies received $3 million in PPP funds, according to the DOJ. Instead of using the funds to pay for payroll and other business expenses, the evidence reportedly showed that he instead used the money to pay for personal expenses which included cash withdrawals, personal credit card payments and even renting an oceanfront apartment in Santa Monica, California. Some amounts of money were transferred from the business account to personal and business accounts he controlled.
Benlevi was convicted of bank fraud, false statements to a financial institution and money laundering.
He is scheduled to be sentenced June 27, and faces up to 30 years in prison for each of the bank fraud and false statement charges. He also faces up to 10 years for each count of money laundering.
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