Florida man charged with COVID relief fraud

MIAMI – A South Florida tax preparer received nearly $1 million in coronavirus relief funds after submitting more than 100 fraudulent applications for himself and others, federal prosecutors said.

Leonel Rivero, 35, of Miami, was charged Tuesday with wire fraud, according to court records. His first appearance hearing in Miami federal court is set for next Tuesday.

Rivero owned a tax-preparation business and submitted approximately 118 fraudulent loan applications on behalf of himself and his accomplices, according to the criminal complaint. Those loan applications sought a total of more than $2.3 million, and Rivero and his accomplices received approximately $975,582, investigators said. On each loan application, Rivero falsified the applicant’s prior-year income and expenses and submitted fraudulent IRS tax forms, officials said.

Online court records didn't list an attorney for Rivero.

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 last March.

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