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U.S. federal authorities accused a businessman of buying a Florida mansion and luxury cars with $7.2 million he obtained from the government’s Wage Protection Program (PPP), which provides access to loans for small businesses.
Don Cisternino, who in 2014 founded the firm MagnifiCo, faces two counts of wire fraud, three counts of aggravated identity theft and three counts of illegal monetary transaction, as picked up Friday by local television station WKMG.
According to the indictment, Cisternino used the money to buy a $3.1 million mansion as well as a Mercedes-Benz car worth more than $250,000, an $89,000 Lincoln Navigator and a $48,000 Maserati.
The small businessman and his business partner, Lori Quasky, purchased a mansion in Chuluota, central Florida, while he was under investigation for using false information in order to obtain a loan for his business.
Cisternino is accused of claiming that New York-based MagnifiCo employed more than a hundred people and had an average monthly payroll of $2.8 million, even though records show the firm as a consulting firm with few or no employees.
The defendant applied for a PPP loan, established as part of the federal CARES bill, put in place to provide relief to small businesses that were affected in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), any PPP loan “may be fully forgiven if the funds are used to pay payroll, mortgage interest, rent, and utilities,” but in order to apply for this reprieve, 75% of the money received must be used to pay workers’ salaries.