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Feds: Florida man charged in $1.9 million COVID-19 relief fraud, used funds to buy cars

He is also accused of withdrawing $100,000 of the PPP loan and wiring a large sum to a South Florida company.

DADE CITY, Fla. — Coronavirus relief funds said to be for a Florida metal scrap business needing to pay 69 employees, was rather used to make wire transfers and buy cars, according to the Department of Justice.

Keith Nicoletta, 48, of Dade City was arrested and charged with bank fraud and illegal monetary transactions after prosecutors said he fraudulently obtained more than $1.9 million through a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan. 

According to a complaint, Nicoletta filed for his scrap metal business to cover payroll expenses totaling more than $9 million annually. But the DOJ said he hadn't reported any wages to the state for employees from 2019 or 2020.

According to a news release from the DOJ, Nicoletta got an emergency loan and laundered the money, transferring it among various bank accounts and withdrawing more than $100,000 in cash. Investigators say he used some of the funds to buy a $106,000 2020 Mercedes and a $66,000 special edition Ford F-250 pickup. 

Nicoletta is also accused of wiring approximately $537,000 to a property management company in South Florida. 

The FBI, IRS and Tampa Field Office were all involved in the investigation.

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