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Florida man guilty of laundering stolen COVID relief funds

Pile of cash. (John Guccione www.advergroup.com from Pexels)

TAMPA, Fla. – A Florida man who received more than $1.9 million in coronavirus relief funds faces up to 20 years in federal prison for laundering most of the money through a fake business and purchasing a luxury car and a pickup truck, federal prosecutors said.

Keith William Nicoletta, 48, of Dade City, pleaded guilty Monday to a conspiracy to launder stolen COVID relief funds, according to the U.S. attorney's office in Tampa. He also agreed to forfeit more than $1.9 million, along with vehicles and other items he bought with the stolen money. A sentencing date wasn't immediately set.

Last May, Nicoletta falsely claimed on a loan application that he had a scrap metal business with 69 employees and a monthly payroll of more than $760,000, prosecutors said.

Once the emergency loan was secured, Nicoletta transferred the money between various accounts and withdrew more than $100,000 in cash, officials said. Nicoletta then purchased a 2020 Mercedes and a 2020 special edition Ford F-250 pickup, officials said. He also bought jewelry and had a swimming pool installed at his home. None of the money was used for payroll.

The Paycheck Protection Program represents billions of dollars in forgivable small business loans for Americans struggling because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It's part of the coronavirus relief package that became federal law in March.

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