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Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
Middle District of Florida
For Immediate Release
Roger B. Handberg, United States Attorney
www.justice.gov/usao-mdfl
Thursday, April 13, 2023

Middle District of Florida Task Force Continues To Combat COVID-19 Fraud

Tampa, FL – United States Attorney Roger B. Handberg announces the results achieved by the Middle District of Florida’s efforts to combat fraud related to COVID-19. Those efforts have included complementary actions by the United States Attorney’s Office’s (USAO-MDFL) Criminal, Asset Recovery, and Civil Divisions, along with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.

“The Middle District of Florida United States Attorney’s Office remains committed to protecting the integrity of government programs established to provide relief for those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said U.S. Attorney Roger Handberg. “These cases should serve as a warning to those who might have engaged in similar fraudulent activity that holding those accountable for these crimes remains a high priority for federal authorities.”

The USAO-MDFL’s Civil Division, in conjunction with the Fraud Section of the Department of Justice Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch, recently announced a $325,000 settlement with Florida companies Kingwood Orlando Reunion Resort LLC and Kingwood Crystal River Resort Corp. (“Crystal River”) regarding allegations that they violated the False Claims Act and the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act by knowingly providing false information in support of a Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) loan forgiveness application submitted by Crystal River.

On the criminal enforcement front, the USAO-MDFL and federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies combined resources in March 2020 to form the Middle District of Florida COVID-19 Fraud Task Force to identify, investigate, and prosecute fraud related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Since its inception, the Task Force has prosecuted 57 defendants for fraud schemes designed to exploit federal programs including the PPP, Economic Injury Disaster Loans (“EIDL”), Unemployment Insurance (“UI”), the Main Street Lending Program (“MSLP”), and the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (“ERAP”). Collectively, these defendants sought to defraud the United States of over $91 million. 43 of those defendants have already been found guilty, while prosecution remains pending against 14 defendants.

(See chart for criminal case details.)

For example, in February 2023, Keith Ingersoll (46, Orlando) was sentenced to nine years and one month in federal prison for a variety of fraud schemes, including a real estate scam and a fraudulent EIDL application.

Also in February 2023, Daniel Joseph Tisone (35, Naples) was sentenced to seven years and three months in federal prison for a variety of COVID-19 fraud offenses. As part of his sentence, he was ordered to forfeit properties, an engagement ring, ammunition, and cash seized from bank accounts and must pay more than $2.6 million in restitution. Tisone, a convicted felon, submitted false and fraudulent EIDL, MSLP, and PPP loan applications containing false representations, including about his criminal history, average monthly payroll, number of employees, and gross revenues.

Further, the USAO-MDFL’s Asset Recovery Division and federal seizing agencies have completed the forfeiture of more than $16.8 million of EIDL, UI, and PPP funds that were fraudulently obtained, depriving the fraudsters of their ill-gotten gains and recovering the proceeds for the victims. More than $9.8 million in additional pandemic fraud proceeds have been seized and are pending civil or criminal forfeiture.

The U.S. Attorney General has established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. For more information on the department’s response to the pandemic, please visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.

Through the PPP, the federal government authorized over $600 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses for job retention and certain other expenses through the PPP. The EIDL program provides economic relief to small businesses that are currently experiencing a temporary loss of revenue. The MSLP provided support to small and medium-sized businesses and their employees across the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic. UI programs provided unemployment benefits to eligible workers who became unemployed through no fault of their own.

The criminal cases charged by the Middle District of Florida COVID-19 Fraud Task Force have been investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Secret Service, Internal Revenue Service—Criminal Investigation, the Department of Labor—Office of Inspector General, the U.S. Postal Service, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the Small Business Administration, the Small Business Administration – Office of Inspector General (SBA  OIG), the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation—Office of Inspector General, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery, Federal Reserve Board – Office of Inspector General, the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation, the Tampa Police Department, the Orlando Police Department, the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, the Winter Park Police Department, the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office, the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office, and the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys throughout the Middle District of Florida.         

The Department of Justice needs the public’s assistance in remaining vigilant and reporting suspected fraudulent activity. To report suspected fraud, contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) at (866) 720-5721 or file an online complaint at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/webform/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form. Complaints filed will be reviewed at the NCDF and referred to federal, state, local, or international law enforcement or regulatory agencies for investigation.

Charged Cases

Defendant(s) (Age)

Charge(s)

Max. Imprisonment

Type of Fraud*

Intended Loss

Amount

Tampa Division

Joseph Abdo

Wire fraud

Maximum Prison Term: 20 Years

Illegal monetary transactions

Maximum Prison Term: 10 Years

PPP

$500k

Alexander Leszczynski

Wire fraud

Maximum Prison Term: 20 Years

Bank fraud

Maximum Prison Term: 30 Years

Illegal monetary transactions

Maximum Prison Term: 10 Years

PPP

$200k

Charles Cunningham

Bank fraud

Maximum Prison Term: 30 years

PPP

$800k

Ellyn Pinkney

Wire fraud

Maximum Prison Term: 20 Years

EIDL

$14M

Kieanna Garrett

Wire fraud

Maximum Prison Term: 20 Years

EIDL

$40k

Nicole Bramble-King

Wire fraud

Maximum Prison Term: 20 Years

PPP

$40k

These COVID Fraud cases from the Tampa Division are being handled by AUSAs Rachel Jones, Greg Pizzo, Candace Rich, and Jennifer Peresie

Orlando Division

Evan Edwards

Joshua Edwards

Conspiracy to commit bank fraud

Maximum Prison Term: 30 years

Bank fraud

Maximum Prison Term: 30 years

Visa fraud

Maximum Prison Term: 10 years

False statements

Maximum Prison Term: 30 years

PPP

$8M

Emmet Bowens

Wire fraud

Maximum Prison Term: 20 Years

Illegal monetary transactions

Maximum Prison Term: 10 Years

PPP

$740k

These COVID Fraud cases from the Orlando Division are being handled by AUSAs Kara Wick, Chauncy Bratt, Shannon Laurie, and Amanda Daniels

Jacksonville Division

Jacob Byrd

Wire fraud

Maximum Prison Term: 20 Years

PPP

$20k

These COVID Fraud cases from the Jacksonville Division are being handled by AUSA Kevin Frein

Fort Myers Division

Venera Price

Mail fraud

Maximum Prison Term: 20 Years

ERAP

$82k

Ismaelle Manuel

Bank Fraud

Maximum Prison Term: 30 Years

Wire Fraud

Maximum Prison Term: 20 Years

PPP

$280k

Denis Casseus

Bank Fraud

Maximum Prison Term: 30 Years

Wire Fraud

Maximum Prison Term: 20 Years

PPP

$298k

These COVID Fraud cases from the Fort Myers Division are being handled by AUSA Yolande Viacava

Ocala Division

Henry Wade

Wire Fraud

Maximum Prison Term: 20 Years

EIDL

$500k

These COVID Fraud cases from the Ocala Division are being handled by AUSA Hannah Nowalk

Adjudicated Cases

Tampa Division

Keaujay Hornsby

Racketeering conspiracy

Maximum Prison Term: 20 Years

Aggravated identity theft

Maximum Prison Term: Two Years Consecutive

Access device fraud

Maximum Prison Term: 10 Years

UI

$3M

Kareem Spann

Racketeering conspiracy

Maximum Prison Term: 20 Years

Aggravated identity theft

Maximum Prison Term: Two Years Consecutive

Access device fraud

Maximum Prison Term: 10 Years

UI

$3M

Richard Simpkins

Conspiracy to commit bank fraud

Maximum Prison Term: 30 Years

Illegal monetary transactions

Maximum Prison Term: 10 Years

PPP

$1.9M

Steve Moodie

Conspiracy to commit wire fraud

Maximum Prison Term: 5 Years

Wire fraud

Maximum Prison Term: 20 Years

Aggravated identity theft

Maximum: Prison Term: Two Years Consecutive

UI

$1.5M

Marqus Willard Johnson

Bank fraud

Maximum Prison Term: 30 Years

Money laundering

Maximum Prison Term: 20 Years

PPP

$500k

Omar Esquivel Bello

Wire fraud

Maximum Prison Term: 20 Years

EIDL

$242k

These COVID Fraud cases from the Tampa Division are being handled by AUSAs Rachel Jones, Diego Novaes, Tiffany Fields, Jennifer Peresie, and Greg Pizzo, and DOJ Trial Attorney John Scanlon

Orlando Division

Brian Blake

Possession of device-making equipment

Maximum Prison Term: 15 Years

Access device fraud

Maximum Prison Term: 10 Years

Aggravated identity theft

Maximum: Prison Term: Two Years Consecutive

PPP/UI

$832k

Daniel Johnson

Conspiracy to commit wire fraud

Maximum Prison Term: 20 Years

Aggravated identity theft

Maximum Prison Term: Two Years Consecutive

Unlawful transfer of firearm

Maximum Prison Term: 5 Years

UI

$2.3M

Teresa McIntyre

Conspiracy to commit wire fraud and other offenses

Maximum Prison Term: 5 Years

EIDL

$730k

Jaheim Davis

Access device fraud

Maximum Prison Term: 10 Years

Aggravated identity theft

Maximum: Prison Term: Two Years Consecutive

UI

$219k

These COVID Fraud cases from the Orlando Division are being handled by AUSAs Chauncey Bratt, Amanda Daniels, Jennifer Harrington, Shannon Laurie, and Dana Hill, and U.S. Attorney Roger Handberg

Jacksonville Division

Desmond Williams

Wire fraud conspiracy

Maximum Prison Term: 20 Years

Wire fraud

Maximum Prison Term: 20 Years

PPP

$40k

Kenneth Landers

Wire Fraud

Maximum Prison Term: 20 Years

Money Laundering

Maximum Prison Term: 30 Years

PPP

$1.4M

These COVID Fraud cases from the Jacksonville Division are being handled by AUSA Kevin Frein and Michael Coolican

Fort Myers Division

Al Clint LaRoche

Bank Fraud

Maximum Prison Term: 30 Years

PPP

$1M

This COVID Fraud case from the Fort Myers Division is being handled by AUSA Trent Reichling

Sentenced Cases

Tampa Division

Louis Thornton, III

Wire Fraud

Sentence Imposed: 42 months in federal prison

EIDL/PPP

$815k

Kary Stevenson

Corey Quinn

Conspiracy to commit access device fraud and aggravated identity theft

Sentence Imposed: 5 years, 10 months in federal prison (Stevenson)

Sentence Imposed:7 years in federal prison (Quinn)

UI

$1M

Bridgitte Keim

Bank fraud

Sentence Imposed: 2 years in federal prison

PPP

$588k

Wayne Ganaway

Conspiracy to commit wire fraud

Sentence Imposed: 4 years in federal prison

EIDL

$300k

Eriaius Bentley

Racketeering conspiracy, aggravated identity theft, access device fraud

Sentence Imposed: One year in federal prison

UI

$3M

Rolanda Wingfield

Access device fraud, Aggravated identity theft

Sentenced Imposed: 3 years in federal prison

UI

$135k

Tywon Spann

Racketeering conspiracy, aggravated identity theft, access device fraud

Sentence Imposed: 6 years and 9 months in federal prison

UI

$3M

Randy Jones

Wire fraud, aggravated identity theft

Sentence Imposed: 5 years and 1 month in federal prison

EIDL/UI

$250k

Julio Lugo

Conspiracy to commit money laundering

Sentence Imposed: 7 years and 6 months in federal prison

EIDL/PPP

$4.4M

Keith Nicoletta

Conspiracy to commit money laundering

Sentence Imposed: 24 months in federal prison

PPP

$1.9M

Rosenide Venant

Conspiracy to commit money laundering

Sentence Imposed: 5 years in federal prison

EIDL/PPP

$413k

Melinda Hernandez

Conspiracy to commit wire fraud

Wire fraud and aggravated identity theft

Sentence imposed: Three years and six months in federal prison

UI

$1.5M

Bri’antina Mills

Wire fraud and theft of government funds

Sentence imposed: 15 months in federal prison

 

$10K

Jorge Gutierrez Echeverria

Wire fraud

Sentence imposed: Two years and six months in federal prison

EIDL

$150k

These COVID Fraud cases from the Tampa Division were handled by AUSAs Rachel Jones, Greg Pizzo, Tiffany Fields, Diego Novaes, Jennifer Peresie, and SAUSA Chris Poor

Orlando Division

Jacquavius Smith

Possession of short-barreled rifle; felon in possession of firearm; and aggravated identity theft

Sentence Imposed: 7 years, 1 month in federal prison

PPP

$10k

Johnson Eustache

Wire fraud

Sentence Imposed: 5 years in federal prison

EIDL/PPP

$2.2M

Joseph Harrison

Conspiracy to commit wire fraud

Sentence Imposed: 12 months in federal prison

UI

$2.1M

Tomas Ziupsnys

Conspiracy to commit bank fraud; bank fraud; aggravated identity theft

Sentence Imposed: 5 years in federal prison

PPP

$2M

Holly Urban

Conspiracy to commit bank fraud

Sentence Imposed: 30 months in federal prison

PPP

$1.5M

Joel Greenberg

Conspiracy to commit wire fraud and other offenses while on pretrial release

Sentence Imposed: 11 years in federal prison

EIDL

$430k

Don Cisternino

           

Wire fraud, illegal monetary transactions, and aggravated identity theft

Sentence Imposed: 8 years and 6 months in federal prison

PPP

$7.2M

Keith Ingersoll        

Conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft

Sentence imposed: 9 years, 1 month in federal prison.

EIDL

$66k

These COVID Fraud cases from the Orlando Division were handled by AUSAs John Gardella, Amanda Daniels, Chauncey Bratt, Emily Chang, and Jennifer Harrington, and U.S. Attorney Roger Handberg

Fort Myers Division

Casey Crowther

Bank fraud, false statement to a financial institution, illegal monetary transaction

Sentence Imposed: 3 years, 1 month in federal prison

PPP

$2.7M

Anthony Bruey

Amber Bruey

Conspiracy to commit wire fraud

Wire fraud

Conspiracy to commit money laundering

Illegal monetary transactions

Sentence Imposed:

Anthony Bruey: 4 years, 3 months in federal prison

Amber Bruey: 4 years in federal prison

PPP/EIDL

$881k

Edrica Leann Watson

False statement to a lending institution

Sentence Imposed: 15 months in federal prison

PPP

$392k

Daniel Joseph Tisone

Wire fraud, bank fraud, money laundering, aggravated identity theft, possession of ammunition by a prohibited person

Sentence Imposed: 7 years in federal prison

PPP/EIDL/MSLP

$10.7M

Liliana Gonzalez

Wire fraud

Sentence Imposed:  5 years of probation with 18 months of home confinement

PPP

$169k

These COVID Fraud cases from the Fort Myers Division were handled by AUSA Trent Reichling and AUSA Jesus M. Casas

Ocala Division

Lavelle Harris

Wire Fraud

Sentence Imposed: 27 months in federal prison

PPP

$1.2M

This COVID Fraud case from the Ocala Division was handled by AUSA Hannah Nowalk

Types of Fraud*

Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL)

Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)

Unemployment Insurance (UI)

Main Street Lending Program (MSLP)

Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP)

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