BUFFALO — A Falls man has pleaded guilty to defrauding the United States Small Business Administration (SBA).
Leo Benevento, 57, pleaded guilty in a deal with prosecutors to a single count of wire fraud during a hearing before U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara. The charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
Prosecutors handling the case said Benevento fraudulently obtained two loans from the Small Business Association under the Economic Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, part of the federal government’s Covid relief efforts. The EIDL program was designed to provide low-interest loans to eligible small businesses to help them meet their financial obligations and operating expenses in the event of disasters like the COVID pandemic.
Benevento was accused of submitting two false loan applications related to his businesses, WNY 24 7 Realty and Benevento Realty. In those applications, prosecutors accused Benevento of “grossly inflated annual revenue and grossly underreported annual business expenses.”
Based on applications, the SBA has approved and funded loans totaling $117,300 under the EIDL program for Benevento.
As part of its plea agreement, Benevento repaid the SBA the amount of the loans.
He risks being sentenced by Arcara on December 19.