June 16, 2024

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This week, a business proprietor from Long Island faced justice in the federal court located in Central Islip for devising a fraudulent COVID-related loan scheme that saw him pocket $3 million, according to officials.

Donald Finley, a resident of Locust Valley, owns the Bayville Adventure Park situated on Long Island as well as the Jekyll & Hyde theme restaurant in Manhattan, which has since ceased operations. The U.S. Attorney’s Office revealed that the court handed down a 24-month prison sentence to Finley.

Finley confessed guilt in May 2023 to charges of disaster relief fraud as well as wire fraud. He admitted to accepting a $3.2 million sum from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDLP) – both initiatives designed to support small businesses.

Finley has managed to pay back the full $3.2 million sum, and the judge further ordered him to pay a fine of $15,000. He must also complete 500 hours of community service.

In a formal written statement, U.S Attorney Breon Peace accused Finley of taking advantage of the lethal pandemic affecting the nation and manipulating it for his selfish gains. He stole millions of dollars from COVID-19 relief funds earmarked to support struggling businesses, using the money to buy a vacation property in Nantucket.

Peace made clear that the consequences of such a disgraceful crime include loss of freedom and full compensation to the victims. He sternly warned others engaged in similar conduct that the Office would neither forgive nor forget COVID-19 frauds.

Officials outlined that Finley utilized over $3 million for expenses unrelated to his businesses, including buying property in Nantucket.

The PPP and EIDLP were initiatives that Congress established under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, launched in March 2020. The objective of the Act was to offer urgent financial aid due to the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The PPP was structured to grant qualifying small businesses loans under favorable terms. The businesses were required to use these loans to meet specific costs such as payroll expenses, mortgage interest, rent, and utilities.

The EIDLP offered small businesses, homeowners, and renters in disaster-afflicted regions low-interest financial aid. Through this program, beneficiaries could receive advances of up to $10,000 within three days of EIDL Advance application, and these advanced sums were not repayable.

Christopher Ferguson, Finley’s legal representative, argued in a court memorandum that his client had fallen victim to alcohol abuse due to the “hysteria and uncertainty” during the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in Finley making an unusually poor decision, Newsday reported.

Officials reported that to get approval for the PPP and EIDLP loans, Finley submitted falsified information, counterfeit financial records, and fraudulent supporting paperwork to the U.S. Small Business Administration and the lending institutions managing the PPP and EIDL initiatives.

Following approval, Finley moved the funds across over 30 bank accounts to hinder tracking efforts, as per official reports.