June 16, 2024

A former restaurant owner in Montgomery Township could face up to 60 years in prison over federal charges for misapplying COVID-19 relief funds, The Mercury reports. Giuseppina “Josephine” Leone, a previous co-owner of Ristorante San Marco in Ambler, was federally indicted on three counts of wire fraud on Friday.

The charge stems from alleged false information in her applications for the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Restaurant Revitalization Fund. As per claims, Leone and her husband sold the restaurant property for $1.575 million on October 20, 2019, indicating themselves as sellers and a third party as the buyer.

Around March 18, 2020, Leone made a social media announcement stating that the Italian restaurant would be temporarily closed due to the pandemic—while no subsequent reopening has taken place. Despite its inactive state, Leone allegedly falsely applied for a $138,000 PPP loan, stating the restaurant had 17 employees and required the fund for payroll and running costs.

After obtaining and subsequently having the loan forgiven due to additional alleged misinformation, Leone is accused of defrauding the Restaurant Revitalization Fund of $699,196 in May 2021. Leone reportedly claimed that the restaurant was still operational and needed the fund to pay employees. By June 2021, the restaurant sale was finalized according to the authorities.

If Leone is convicted, she may need to repay a total of $957,196 in addition to a $750,000 fine. More on Leone’s case can be found in The Mercury article [here](https://www.thereporteronline.com/2024/05/17/former-ambler-restaurant-owner-charged-with-covid-relief-loan-fraud/).

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the federal Paycheck Protection Program?

The Federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is a loan scheme designed by the U.S. government to provide direct incentives to small businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic. These loans are intended to help businesses keep their employees on payroll by providing a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll.

What is the Restaurant Revitalization Fund?

The Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) is a U.S. government initiative to provide funding to eligible businesses such as restaurants, bars, and other similar places of business that serve food or drink. The purpose of the fund is to provide these establishments with relief equal to their pandemic-related revenue loss up to $10 million per business, with no more than $5 million per physical location.

What is the implication of fraudulent misuse of these funds?

Engaging in fraudulent misuse of the PPP or RRF is a federal crime. If found guilty, individuals can face severe penalties including hefty fines and prolonged prison sentences. Furthermore, they are also liable to repay the fraudulently obtained funds in full.