DOJ charges Polk County couple with $5.8M COVID relief fraud

Polk County

Dollars Closeup Concept. American Dollars Cash Money. One Hundred Dollar Banknotes. (Getty)

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — A Davenport couple was arrested and charged with conspiring to defraud the Small Business Administration out of millions of dollars in coronavirus relief funds.

The US Department of Justice said Julio Lugo, 44, and Rosenide Venant, 37, used their home IP address to submit at least 70 fake loan applications to get money from the Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan program.

Lugo and Venant reportedly applied for more than $5.8 million. Once the two received their money, the DOJ said they used it by paying off a luxury vehicle, spending more than $62,000 at casinos, and for other personal purposes.

DOJ said the couple also withdrew at least $320,000 in cash. Lugo allegedly publicized the money on a Facebook video from a hotel room littered with $100 bills and at least $5,000 in Louis Vuitton merchandise.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was created in March 2020 to provide emergency financial assistance to those suffering from the pandemic. One of the sources of relief provided by the CARES Act was $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses for job retention and other expenses during the pandemic.

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