A New York business man has pleaded guilty to swindling millions of dollars in federal COVID-19 relief funds, some of which he used to buy a Nantucket home.
Donald Finley, who owns the Bayville Adventure Park in Long Island, admitted he stole more than $3.2 million through fraudulent loan applications, according to the Department of Justice.
The 61-year-old also used to own the famous Jekyll & Hyde theme restaurant in Manhattan until it shut down in 2022 after filing for bankruptcy over $7.5 million owed to creditors and another $1.5 million in unpaid rent.
He pleaded guilty to disaster relief fraud and wire fraud after obtaining small business loans through the the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDLP).
Prosecutors say Finley devised a scheme to submit fraudulent information to the government to obtain millions in funds during the pandemic to fund his lavish lifestyle.
New York businessman Donald Finley has pleaded guilty to swindling millions of dollars in COVID-19 relief funds
Finley, who owns the Bayville Adventure Park in Long Island, admitted he stole more than $3.2 million through fraudulent loan applications
‘Finley has admitted diverting millions of dollars in COVID-19 disaster relief funds to finance his personal expenses, including the purchase of a home in Nantucket, Massachusetts,’ said Breon Peace, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
Between March 2020 and March 2021, the disgraced businessman fraudulently applied for, and received, at least 29 PPP and EIDLP loans on behalf of corporate entities he controlled.
Finley now faces up to 30 years in prison and has been ordered to pay the more than $3.2 million in restitution, as well as a fine of up to $1.25 million.
He said he was ‘deeply remorseful for his conduct’ in court on Thursday, as reported by Newsday.
His sentencing is scheduled for November 8.
“We have seen the abuses of disaster relief programs when all too often criminals find an opportunity for exploitation,’ said Special Agent-in-Charge with Internal Revenue Service Thomas Fattorusso.
‘In this case, Finley obtained millions in COVID-19 relief funds, only to use the ill-gotten cash for his own personal gain. While he may be the owner of an amusement park meant to bring joy, with his guilty plea and pending sentencing, Finley may be facing a future that he could find much less enjoyable.’
The 61-year-old also used to own the famous Jekyll & Hyde theme restaurant in Manhattan until it shut down in 2022 after filing for bankruptcy
Finley’s 11,037 square foot home in Locust Valley, New York, is currently valued at nearly $5million
In total, the US government splashed out some $6 trillion in emergency COVID-19 relief funds to prevent economic disaster, and the firehose of cash attracted a flock of eager fraudsters.
An estimated $100 billion in federal pandemic relief funding was stolen by fraudsters who blew the cash on lavish lifestyles.
The government is grappling with the daunting task of tracking down and prosecuting the perpetrators.
The suspects include a former NFL player and a reality TV star, and in the scores of cases brought so far, prosecutors allege that fraudulently obtained funds were spent on everything from Lamborghinis and Rolex watches to a contract murder.
In December, the Secret Service appointed Assistant Special Agent in Charge Roy Dotson of the Jacksonville field office as the National Pandemic Fraud Recovery Coordinator, tasked with coordinating efforts across multiple ongoing investigations into fraudulent relief claims.
The sprawling fraud took place over three separate rounds of relief funding during both the Trump and Biden administrations, and the current White House is quick to paint it as an issue that President Joe Biden ‘inherited’ from his predecessor.