ORLANDO, Fla. – A woman whom prosecutors say played a “minor” role in a COVID-19 relief fraud scheme was sentenced to five years of probation Tuesday and ordered to pay $587,500 in restitution.
Teresa McIntyre, 55, tearfully told a judge she initially believed she was helping small business owners obtain loans to care for their employees during the pandemic.
Former Seminole County tax collector Joel Greenberg was among several people who used McIntyre to obtain fraudulent loans through the Small Business Administration, court records show.
Greenberg is serving an 11-year prison sentence for child sex trafficking, aggravated identity theft, stalking and conspiring to defraud the United States government.
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Federal prosecutors said an unidentified woman who worked for the SBA as a loan specialist knowingly processed fraudulent applications for loans intended to help small businesses hurt during the pandemic.
McIntyre admitted in a plea agreement that she prepared fraudulent loan applications on behalf of business owners and submitted them to the SBA employee.
McIntyre and the SBA employee received about $1,000 for each fraudulent loan they processed, court records show.
Federal prosecutors have not publicly identified that SBA employee but indicated they plan to charge her at a later date.
During Tuesday’s sentence hearing, McIntyre and her attorney said the SBA employee is McIntyre’s sister. They did not identify the sister by name.
As part of her plea agreement, McIntyre is required to assist prosecutors on other criminal investigations.
“My sister came to me and asked me to help her,” McIntyre told the judge. “As I’d do for anyone, I helped her.”
McIntyre claimed she initially did not know she was taking part in a fraudulent scheme.
“I thought I was helping people in need,” said McIntyre. “That’s my nature.”
McIntyre, who said she was forced to close her photography business during the pandemic, claimed her sister later told her one of the businesses was ineligible for COVID-19 relief loans.
“I freaked out,” said McIntyre. “I said, ‘What do you mean its not a real company?’”
Prosecutors noted that McIntyre continued to participate in the scheme and took steps to conceal her relationship with the SBA employee while submitting fraudulent loan applications.
When a judge sentenced Greenberg in December for his crimes, Greenberg received credit for cooperating with federal prosecutors on several investigations, including the one involving McIntyre.
Greenberg admitted to obtaining $432,700 in fraudulent SBA loans after an unidentified friend introduced him to the SBA employee, court records show.
“The scheme was not Greenberg’s idea, but he was recruited into it and agreed to participate in it with knowledge of its illegality,” Greenberg’s plea agreement stated.
McIntyre did not mention Greenberg by name during her sentencing.
“I’m not a news watcher,” McIntyre told the judge. “I didn’t know. I thought we were helping companies.”
U.S. District Judge Wendy Berger told McIntyre she appeared to be the least likely person to commit a crime that she’s encountered since she began serving as a judge in 2005.
“It’s a head-scratcher for me,” said Berger. “You do need to forgive yourself. The Court forgives you. But there are consequences.”
Although McIntyre was eligible for a prison sentence of 41 to 51 months, prosecutors agreed with McIntyre’s attorney, Alan Diamond, that McIntyre was deserving of a sentence below the federal guideline.
While on probation for five years, McIntyre will be required to perform 100 hours of community service every year.
McIntyre is allowed to pay the $587,500 in restitution to the SBA in $150 monthly installments, the judge ruled.
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