Florida man guilty of laundering stolen COVID relief funds

TAMPA, Florida — A Florida man who received more than $1.9 million in coronavirus The relief fund faces up to 20 years in federal prison for laundering most of the money through a fake company and buying a luxury car and a pickup truck, federal prosecutors said.

Keith William Nicoletta, 48, of Dade City, pleaded guilty Monday to conspiracy to launder stolen COVID relief funds, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Tampa. He also agreed to confiscate more than $1.9 million, along with vehicles and other items he purchased with the stolen money. A sentencing date was not immediately set.

Last May, Nicoletta falsely claimed in 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 obtained, Nicoletta transferred the money between different accounts and withdrew more than $100,000 in cash, officials said. Nicoletta then bought a 2020 Mercedes and a 2020 Ford F-250 special-edition pickup, officials said. He also bought jewelry and had a swimming pool installed at his home. No money was used for payroll.

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 package that became federal law in March.

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

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