Covid fraudster used pandemic rescue funds to buy alpaca farm


A pizzeria owner from the Boston area has been convicted of using pandemic relief funds to buy an alpaca farm in Vermont and fund his radio programme.

Dana McIntyre, 59, was sentenced to two years for fraudulently accepting more than $660,000 (£520,000) in federal aid meant for struggling business owners.

In a statement, the FBI said he "capitalised on a national catastrophe" to steal from American taxpayers.

He pleaded guilty in April to wire fraud and money laundering.

"Make no mistake about it, this was no momentary lapse in the fog of the pandemic," said Acting United States Attorney Joshua S Levy, referring to the "multiple bogus applications for pandemic money" that McIntyre filed for on behalf of his children and his former pizzeria - Rasta Pasta Pizzeria in Beverly, Massachusetts.

The fraud began in March 2020 when McIntyre used the names of his adult children to file for businesses that did not exist.

In April, he signed up to receive further assistance, falsely claiming to be generating no income from his pizza business.

He applied for a US Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan of over $660,000, making numerous false claims about the size of the business on his application form.

Enacted between March 2020 and May 2021, PPP allowed small businesses hit hard by the pandemic to apply for low-interest private loans to cover payroll and other costs.

McIntyre sold the restaurant in September 2020 and continued to receive money.

He then "used nearly all the funds to purchase a farm in Vermont, as well as eight alpacas, and other personal expenses, including two vehicles and airtime for his crypto-currency themed radio show" the US Justice Department said in a news release on Wednesday.

According to the New York Times, more than 3,100 Americans have been charged with pandemic relief fraud.