48-year-old Keith Nicoletta of Dade City, Florida has pleaded guilty to a conspiracy to launder stolen COVID relief funds.
According to the plea agreement, in May 2020, Nicoletta and his conspirators stole more than $1.9 million in emergency loan funds from the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”), which were guaranteed by the Small Business Administration. The fraudulent PPP loan application claimed that Nicoletta’s local business had 69 employees with a purported monthly payroll exceeding $760,000—or more than $9 million annually. In fact, the business had no employees and its address was actually Nicoletta’s home.
Once the emergency loan was secured, the PPP funds were not used for qualified expenses. Instead, the conspirators immediately began laundering the money through several different financial institutions. Nicoletta also withdrew more than $100,000 in cash. In October 2020, more than $40,000 in cash was recovered during a search of Nicoletta’s home. After laundering the PPP funds, Nicoletta spent lavishly, including the purchase of a 2020 Mercedes for more than $100,000, a 2020 special edition Ford F-250 pickup valued at more than $66,000, jewelry, and the installation of a pool at his home costing approximately $63,000. None of the money, however, was used for payroll, as Congress had intended.
Nicoletta faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison. He also agreed to forfeit more than $1.9 million, a 2020 Mercedes, a 2020 Ford F-250, real property located in Pasco County, and other funds and assets that are traceable proceeds of the offense.