Florida couple bilked $5.8M in COVID-19 loans, flaunted cash on Facebook, prosecutors say

Both face decades in prison if convicted

Julio Lugo, 44, and Rosenide Venant, 37, accused of bilking SBA out of $5.8 million, prosecutors say. (Copyright 2021 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

DAVENPORT, Fla. – A couple from Davenport faces federal charges after investigators say they applied for at least 70 fraudulent COVID-19 relief loans through the Small Business Administration totaling more than $5.8 million.

The U.S. Department of Justice announced the charges against Julio Lugo, 44, and Rosenide Venant, 37, in a news release on Friday.

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According to prosecutors, the couple from Davenport worked together to apply for loans through from the Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. Investigators said the loans were taken out in the names of shell companies established by Lugo, Venant and their relatives. Investigators did not name the four relatives involved in those fraudulent loan applications.

The shell companies included a defunct tax-preparation company, which Lugo previously used in a tax fraud scheme in 2015, according to the feds, for which Lugo was still on supervised release.

Some of the names for the shell companies include; Sisters for Compassionate care LLC, Rose Garden Recovery Living Inc. and Diamond Taxes and Multi Services Inc., according to the criminal complaint.

Records show, the couple used the money to pay off a BMW 7-Series sedan and spent more than $49,000 at casinos and spent at least $13,000 at weight loss centers. The couple also withdrew more than $320,000, agents said.

Investigators said Lugo went so far as to publicly flaunt the abused funds in an 8-minute video on Facebook on July 1, 2020. In a video obtained by investigators, Lugo and Venant were in a hotel room littered with $100 bills and items from Louis Vuitton. In the video, Lugo also shows off what he referred to as a $5,000 watch, records show.

Images from the Facebook video showing Lugo and Venant with some of the stolen money, according to the FBI. (Copyright 2021 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

Investigators said the fraud took place between March and August 2020.

Both face charges of conspiracy and making false statements to a financial institution. Lugo faces an additional charge of an illegal monetary transaction because of the payment for the BMW.

If convicted Lugo faces up to 45 years in federal prison, Venant faces up to 35 years.

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About the Author:

Thomas Mates is a digital storyteller for News 6 and ClickOrlando.com. He also produces the podcast Florida Foodie. Thomas is originally from Northeastern Pennsylvania and worked in Portland, Oregon before moving to Central Florida in August 2018. He graduated from Temple University with a degree in Journalism in 2010.