A small business owner in Georgia reportedly told federal investigators it was easy to get COVID-19 relief money through the Paycheck Protection Program during the pandemic – all he had to do was to continue to “click buttons,” prosecutors said.
Today, the 47-year-old faces jail time and could owe the government more than half a million dollars.
Anthony J. Boncimino, of Sycamore, Georgia, pleaded guilty on Monday to one count of money laundering, the Georgia Middle District attorney’s office said in a press release. Sycamore is a small town of about 1,000 residents about 87 miles south of Macon.
Boncimino owned a moving company in Sycamore and is accused of fabricating two other companies to apply for PPP loans totaling more than $ 2.6 million. He then used some of the money to pay state and federal taxes, prosecutors said.
“Greed has no place in the SBA’s programs that aim to provide assistance to small businesses across the country grappling with the challenges of the pandemic,” Special Agent in Charge Amaleka McCall-Brathwaite said in the communicated. “Fraudsters who try to access economic stimulus funds will be taken to court. “
A defense attorney representing Boncimino did not immediately respond to McClatchy News’ request for comment on Wednesday.
According to documents filed by the court, Boncimino first applied for a COVID-19 relief loan in April 2020 on behalf of his moving company, Precision Movers Inc. But prosecutors said he lied in the request. about having 44 employees and $ 266,793 in monthly salary expenses.
Boncimino eventually received a PPP loan of $ 666,983, of which about $ 273,400 he turned over to Georgia’s ministries of labor and revenue for taxes, the government said.
Prosecutors said he received a second PPP loan totaling $ 666,983 for Precision Movers in February this year.
Boncimino also invented two companies called Meridian Park Ventures and Oak Harbor Investments, according to court documents. Prosecutors said the companies were formed after February 15, 2020 and “only existed on paper.”
In his claim, Boncimino said Meridian Park Ventures had 44 workers and $ 286,502 in monthly salary expenses, which earned him a PPP loan of $ 716,255. He also received a $ 621,650 PPP loan for Oak Harbor Investments based on similar lies, prosecutors said.
Boncimino then funneled the money to other bank accounts he controlled, the government said. He is accused of spending a large portion of PPP loans on taxes and credit card bills.
According to the plea deal, investigators caught up with Boncimino in April and he admitted to fabricating both companies. He also said he used online software to create fake payroll records and returned some of the money from the PPP loans to the bank.
The people on his payslips were all former employees or community members who “didn’t know their personal credentials were being used to get PPP loans,” prosecutors said.
He reportedly told investigators that it was easy to get money on loan websites, but that he was not “buying big ticket items.”
He “just wanted a safety net for his family and his moving company,” Boncimino reportedly said.
Court records show he was arrested at the end of May and a grand jury indicted him in June.
Prosecutors have said they will seek a forfeiture order totaling $ 507,556, and Boncimino faces up to 10 years in prison and up to $ 250,000 in fines when convicted in February.