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Fake business owner uses coronavirus relief funds to buy $100K Mercedes, feds say

Federal prosecutors alleged Friday that a Florida man used a fake business to receive a $1.9 million Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan — then used some of the funds to purchase a Mercedes and pickup truck.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Florida said in a statement that  Keith Nicoletta, 48, acquired the loan by fraudulently claiming he owned a scrap metal business with 69 employees and a monthly payroll exceeding $760,000. However, Nicoletta had no reported wages in Florida for any employees in 2019 and 2020, according to the Associated Press.

Federal prosecutors said Nicoletta immediately laundered the PPP funds after receiving the payout in May. He allegedly transferred the money between accounts at various financial institutions.

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“None of the money was used for payroll,” federal prosecutors said.

After withdrawing more than $100,000 in cash, Nicoletta allegedly spent at least $106,00 on a 2020 Mercedes and bought a 2020 special edition Ford F-250 pickup for more than $66,000.

Authorities also claimed Nicoletta wired $537,000 to an undisclosed property management company in South Florida.

Nicoletta was arrested last week on charges of bank fraud and illegal monetary transactions. It is not immediately known whether he is still in custody.

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[Featured image: Kevin Nicoletta/Handout]