Seminole County man charged with COVID fraud | USAO-MDFL

Orlando, Florida – United States Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez announces the return of an indictment charging Don V. Cisternino (45, Chuluota) with two counts of wire fraud, three counts of theft of aggravated identity and three counts of illegal currency transactions. If convicted, Cisternino faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for each account of electronic fraud, up to 10 years in prison for each account of illegal money transaction and a mandatory consecutive sentence of two years for them. counts of aggravated identity theft.

According to charge, in or about May 2020, Cisternino fraudulently obtained more than $ 7.2 million in emergency funds through a Paycheck Protection Program (“P3”) loan.

The Coronavirus Relief, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES”) is federal law enacted in March 2020. It is designed to provide emergency financial assistance to millions of Americans suffering the effects economic aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the sources of relief under the CARES Act is the authorization of up to $ 349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses for job maintenance and certain other expenses under the PPP. In April 2020, Congress authorized more than $ 300 billion in additional P3 funding.

The PPP allows small businesses and other eligible organizations to benefit from loans with a two-year term and an interest rate of 1%. Businesses must use the proceeds from PPP loans for staff costs, mortgage interest, rent, and utilities. The PPP allows the remission of interest and principal if the business spends the proceeds of these expenses within a specified time frame and uses at least a certain percentage of the loan for qualifying business expenses.

Cisternino’s PPP loan application falsely claimed that Cisternino’s New York-based company MagnifiCo had 441 employees and monthly payroll expenses in 2019 of more than $ 2.8 million. In truth, MagnifiCo had few, if any, employees other than Cisternino and his girlfriend, and MagnifiCo did not report any wages to the IRS for 2019. In support of his PPP loan application, Cisternino submitted fake W-2s for alleged MagnifiCo employees, many of whom listed the names and social security numbers of real people who were not MagnifiCo employees and who had not authorized Cisternino to use their identities.

Once Cisternino secured the $ 7.2 million emergency loan, he did not use those funds for qualifying expenses. Instead, he spent the funds for unauthorized purposes and for personal gain, including the purchase of Lincoln Navigator, Maserati, and Mercedes-Benz vehicles, and a residence of approximately 12,579 square feet in County of Seminole.

An indictment is simply a formal charge that an accused has committed one or more violations of federal criminal law, and each accused is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

This matter is under investigation by the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, Tampa Field Office. He is being sued by the Assistant United States Attorney, Chauncey A. Bratt.

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