Breaking News
More () »

Tampa Bay and Sarasota's Leading Local News: Weather, Traffic, Sports and more | Tampa Bay and Sarasota, FL | WTSP.com

Florida couple hits casinos, pays off luxury car using fraudulent COVID relief funds, DOJ says

The couple could face decades in prison if convicted.
Credit: Tomasz Zajda - stock.adobe.com

DAVENPORT, Fla. — A Davenport couple could face decades in prison if convicted on charges related to fraud and misuse of coronavirus relief funds amounting to $5.8 million, the Department of Justice announced on Friday.

Julio Lugo, 44, and Rosenide Venant, 37, worked together to defraud the Small Business Association by submitting at least 70 “false and fraudulent” loan applications seeking money from the Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, according to a press release.

The release goes on to say that Lugo and Venant, along with other relatives, established shell companies to request $5.8 million in fraudulent loan applications. They also received coronavirus relief funds for a tax-preparation company that no longer exists. The Department of Justice says that tax-preparation company was previously used by Lugo to commit tax fraud in 2015.

In that 2015 case, Lugo was convicted of conspiracy to defraud the government and identity theft, a criminal complaint says. He has since been on supervised release.

Fast forward six years and authorities say evidence of Lugo’s latest scheme was found on Facebook.

According to the Department of Justice, Lugo posted a video to the social media site featuring a hotel room littered with $100 bills and at least $5,000 worth of Louis Vuitton merchandise.

Lugo and Venant are accused of paying off a luxury car with the money, as well as spending more than $62,000 at casinos and withdrawing at least $320,000 in cash.

Lugo faces up to 45 years in prison if convicted, while Venant faces 35 years.

Both are charged with conspiracy and making false statements to a financial institution.

Additionally, Lugo was charged with an illegal monetary transaction relating to the illegal use of the coronavirus relief funds.

What other people are reading right now:

►Breaking news and weather alerts: Get the free 10 Tampa Bay app

Stay In the Know! Sign up now for the Brightside Blend Newsletter