Niagara Falls man pleads guilty to COVID-19 fraud


Date: August 31, 2022


U.S. Attorney Trini E. Ross announced today that Leo Benevento, of Niagara Falls, New York, pleaded guilty to wire fraud before U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, and a fine of $250,000.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Russell T. Ippolito, who is handling the case, stated that Benevento fraudulently obtained two loans from the Small Business Association under the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Program, which was designed to provide low-interest loans to qualifying small businesses to help them meet financial obligations and operating expenses in the event of a disaster. Benevento submitted two false applications for loans related to his businesses, "WNY 24 7 Realty" and "Benevento Realty," grossly inflating annual revenue and grossly underreporting annual expenses for the businesses. As a result of the falsified applications, the SBA approved and funded loans totaling $117,300 under the EIDL Program. Benevento has reimbursed the SBA for the fraudulently obtained loans.

The plea is the result of an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division, under the direction of Special Agent-In-Charge Thomas Fattorusso, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Stephen Belongia.

Sentencing is scheduled for December 19, 2022, before Judge Arcara.