FLORIDA – A Miami church’s lead pastor has been sentenced to federal prison after admitting to defrauding the Paycheck Protection Program, said the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida (USAO).
Elie Floradin, 59, the self-described head pastor of the New Bethel Baptist Church in Miami, was sentenced to 48 months in federal prison for participating in a fraudulent scheme seeking more than $1 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, said the USAO.
According to court documents, Floradin caused an intermediary to repeatedly file false and fraudulent PPP applications, which sought federal COVID-19 assistance funds for companies that did not exist. Among these was a fake employment agency through which Floradin claimed to pay approximately $960,000 in yearly wages to dozens of employees when, in fact, no such business existed, prosecutors said.
Reportedly, after successfully receiving an initial PPP loan of approximately $200,000, Floradin caused the submission of three more fraudulent PPP applications on behalf of his non-existent hiring agency, seeking approximately $600,000 in additional PPP loans—though these additional funds were denied.
Following Floradin’s guilty plea, however, the government said it learned of yet another prior fraudulent PPP loan, successfully filed on behalf of yet another corporate entity under Floradin’s name, causing the disbursement of approximately $336,000 in additional PPP funds to Floradin.
At sentencing, Floradin admitted that he fraudulently applied for more than $1 million and that he received more than half that amount in fraudulently obtained COVID-19 assistance funds.
In addition to his sentence of imprisonment, Floradin was ordered to pay back $535,996 in the form of restitution to the United States.
U.S. Attorney Markenzy Lapointe for the Southern District of Florida and Special Agent in Charge Mark H. Morini Jr. of the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), Southern Field Division, announced the sentence imposed by U.S. District Judge Jose E. Martinez.
TIGTA Southern Field Division and the Florida Office of Financial Regulation (OFR), Bureau of Financial Investigations (BFI), Miami Region investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Eduardo Gardea Jr. prosecuted the case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Annika Miranda and Peter Laserna are handling asset forfeiture.
Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.