A federal judge has sentenced the former owner of a North Shore pizzeria to two years in prison and to pay back nearly $680,000 for fraud involving COVID-19 business loans and benefits.
In April, Dana McIntyre pleaded guilty to four counts of wire fraud and three counts of money laundering. The charges stemmed from claims that he filed fraudulent Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan applications, used the loans for personal expenses, and fraudulently filed for and collected COVID-19 unemployment benefits.
Among the personal expenses for which the 59-year-old Grafton, Vermont, resident used the loan was the purchase of a farm in Vermont and eight Alpacas. McIntyre is the former owner of Rasta Pasta Pizzeria in Beverly, Mass.
On Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Denise Casper sentenced McIntyre to two years in prison, three years of supervised release, and to pay $679,156 in restitution and forfeiture, the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts said in a press release.
“Dana McIntyre capitalized on a national catastrophe and stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from a limited pool of money set aside to help struggling businesses,” FBI Special Agent Jodi Cohen said in the release. “Today’s sentence holds him accountable for his selfish criminal conduct.”
McIntyre’s misuse of public funds
In March 2020 when McIntyre lived in Beverly and Essex, he used the names of his adult children to submit two fraudulent COVID-19 business relief loan applications for businesses that did not exist, the release said.
The following month, McIntyre began submitting applications and weekly certifications to receive pandemic unemployment benefits, officials said. In these filings, he falsely claimed he was not working or receiving income as a result of the pandemic.
In reality, McIntyre was still operating Rasta Pasta Pizzeria and making money from it, according to officials. By September 2020, when McIntyre sold the restaurant, he had received over $17,000 in unemployment benefits.
In April 2020, McIntyre submitted a fraudulent application for a PPP loan of over $660,000 with false information about the pizzeria’s employees and payroll expenses, officials said. He also falsified an official tax form to make the restaurant qualify for a larger loan.
After receiving the loan, McIntyre sold the pizzeria and used nearly all the money to purchase a farm in Vermont and eight alpacas, according to the release. He also spent it on other personal expenses, including two vehicles and airtime for his radio show about cryptocurrency.
“Make no mistake about it, this was no momentary lapse in the fog of the pandemic. Mr. McIntyre submitted multiple bogus applications for pandemic money that was supposed to provide a lifeline to small businesses and their employees during a national emergency,” Acting U.S. Attorney Joshua Levy said in the release. “He stole from the American taxpayers and the many small businesses which truly needed those loans to survive.”
Cracking down on COVID-19 relief fraud
In May 2021, Attorney General Merrick Garland established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to crack down on people who had misused public funds through pandemic relief programs.
Since then, many business owners have been prosecuted for such crimes. In June, a Brighton food truck owner was sentenced to two years in prison for investing $1.5 million he got from pandemic relief loans into the stock market.
Last month, Levy said, his office allocated more resources to investigating this type of fraud.
“Whether someone used stolen money to buy luxury goods or fancy cars or exotic farm animals, we intend to find them and hold them accountable,” he said in the release.
Anyone with information about possible pandemic relief fraud can report it using the National Center for Disaster Fraud’s (NCDF) Web Complaint Form.
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