For Immediate Release
Norfolk Man Convicted of Drug, Firearm, and COVID Fraud Charges
NORFOLK, Va. – A federal judge convicted a Norfolk man yesterday on charges involving the simultaneous sale of cocaine and firearms, distribution of cocaine, use of a firearm in the commission of narcotics trafficking, being a felon in possession of a firearm, and fraudulently receiving $83,330 in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans in 2021.
According to court records and evidence presented at trial, between 2021 and 2022, Bonas was apprehended by Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) agents after he participated in a scheme involving a group of co-conspirators who distributed approximately one kilogram of cocaine and 15 firearms. Bonas participated in four controlled purchases in the summer of 2021 which involved three firearms, two of which were stolen, and approximately 3.5 ounces of cocaine. He was also identified as a prolific distributor of crack cocaine in Norfolk and Virginia Beach during the same period.
As part of their investigation, ATF agents discovered through bank records that Bonas received four Small Business Administration-guaranteed PPP loans of $20,833 each and spent the money on various personal expenses, including the purchase of a luxury vehicle, restaurant and bar tabs, clothing, jewelry, sports gambling, and over $16,800 on rental cars. Bonas also sought and obtained forgiveness of the $83,330 in loans using the same fraudulent data.
Bonas faces a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years and a maximum penalty of life in prison when sentenced on January 16, 2024. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Jessica D. Aber, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Craig Kailimai, Special Agent in Charge of the ATF’s Washington Field Division, made the announcement after Senior U.S. District Judge Raymond A. Jackson returned the verdict.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Sherrie S. Capotosto is prosecuting the case.
Congress authorized PPP loans under the CARES Act as a source of funds to allow small businesses to continue making payroll and other business-related expenses during the COVID-19 pandemic. On May 17, 2021, Attorney General Merrick Garland established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force, led by the Deputy Attorney General, to bring together the full resources of the federal government to bolster fraud enforcement efforts.
This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and gun violence, and to make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. On May 26, 2021, the Department launched a violent crime reduction strategy strengthening PSN based on these core principles: fostering trust and legitimacy in our communities, supporting community-based organizations that help prevent violence from occurring in the first place, setting focused and strategic enforcement priorities, and measuring the results.
A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 2:23-cr-25.