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Miami pastor sentenced for PPP fraud

MIAMI (BP) – Elie Floradin, pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church in Miami, was sentenced earlier this month to 48 months in federal prison for fraud committed through a government COVID-relief plan. He pled guilty to the charges.

According to a release from the Southern District of Florida of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Floradin, 59, participated in “a fraudulent scheme seeking more than $1 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.”

Through an intermediary, Floradin repeatedly filed false PPP applications, seeking COVID-19 relief for companies that did not exist.

“Among these was a fake employment agency through which Floradin claimed to pay approximately $960,000 in yearly wages to dozens of employees when, in fact, no such business existed,” the attorney’s office release said.

The sentence was imposed by U.S. District Judge Jose E. Martinez.

“At sentencing, Floradin admitted that he fraudulently applied for more than $1 million, and that he received more than half that amount, in fraudulently obtained COVID-19 assistance funds,” the release said. “In addition to his sentence of imprisonment, Floradin was ordered to pay back $535,996 in the form of restitution to the United States.”

In March 2020, the U.S. Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act, designed to provide emergency relief for businesses harmed by government-mandated shutdowns and other economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Paycheck Protection Program was part of that relief effort. It allowed qualifying small businesses and other organizations to receive loans for payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent and utilities. A PPP loan could be forgiven if the business spent it correctly.

According to the Southern Baptist Convention’s database, Floradin has been pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church since November of 2000.

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