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COVID-19: Saugerties Man Accused Of Stealing Nearly $5M From Relief Fund

An Ulster County man was arrested after stealing nearly $5 million in loans earmarked for small businesses.
An Ulster County man was arrested after stealing nearly $5 million in loans earmarked for small businesses.

A man from the Hudson Valley allegedly took advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to live a lavish lifestyle by allegedly illegally obtaining nearly $5 million in loans meant for struggling businesses.

Ulster County resident Jean Lavanture, of Saugerties, also known as Rudy Lavanture, was arrested this week on a bank fraud complaint that alleges he obtained millions in government-backed loans that were earmarked for businesses struggling during the pandemic.

Lavanture was arrested on Thursday, Sept. 17 at a new 8.54-acre estate that he allegedly purchased with the illegally obtained funds.

It is alleged that between Tuesday, June 16, and Wednesday, July 22, Lavanture received $4,906,281 in Payback Protection Program (PPP) loans and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL).

The loans were issued by two banks to five Saugerties-based companies that Lavanture controls.

Prosecutors said that in the loan applications, Lavanture falsely represented that each company had employees, substantial revenues, and a payroll, complete with fraudulent tax documents supporting his lies.

However, none of the companies ever reported employees to the state Department of Labor, and no income was reported to the IRS between 2017 and 2019.

Lavanture also allegedly improperly used the loaned funds to make property purchases and pay personal expenses.

According to the complaint, Lavanture has withdrawn $439,503.25 of the loaned funds in cash, and drew on the loaned funds when he purchased a motel in Rockaway Beach, Missouri, and transferred $952,000 in connection with the purchase of an 8.54-acre estate in Byram Township, New Jersey, that includes an 18-room Tuscan-style mansion.

“The allegations against Mr. Lavanture are appalling,” FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Thomas Relford said. “Small businesses have suffered devastating losses during the coronavirus pandemic and the FBI will not tolerate anyone who steals the funding designed to be a lifeline for those businesses.”

If convicted of bank fraud, Lavanture faces up to 30 years in prison followed by five years of supervised release. Lavanture is also facing a maximum fine of the greater of $1 million or twice his victim’s loss.

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