Business owner accused of lying to obtain pandemic loan

BOSTON (AP) — A former Massachusetts resident has been charged by prosecutors with fraudulently obtaining $2.5 million in federal relief funds intended for businesses struggling during the coronavirus pandemic and using the money to buy cars and invest in cryptocurrency.

Vinicius Santana, 34, who used to live in Saugus and now lives in Boca Raton, Florida, was arrested earlier this week in Florida and will appear in federal in court in Massachusetts at a future date to face a charge of wire fraud, according to a statement Wednesday from the U.S. attorney’s office in Boston.

No defense attorney was listed in court records.

Santana submitted four different Paycheck Protection Program loan applications on behalf of his painting company in April 2020, prosecutors said.

Three, in which he said he had just a handful of employees and an average monthly payroll of no more more than $18,000, were denied. In the fourth, Santana said he had 154 employees and an average monthly payroll of $1 million. Those figures were false, prosecutors said, but nevertheless, the application was approved and he received a $2.5 million loan.

Santana used the money to buy a house, pay off auto loans and buy vehicles, and to invest in cryptocurrency, prosecutors said.

The Paycheck Protection Program provided forgivable loans to small businesses struggling during the pandemic to be used for job retention and certain other approved expenses.

If convicted, Santana faces up to 20 years in prison.

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