A Hudson Valley man is accused of stealing nearly $5 million in COVID-19 relief loans meant for small businesses struggling during the pandemic.

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Jean R. Lavanture, a/k/a Rudy Lavanture, 47, of Saugerties was arrested on Thursday on a bank fraud complaint alleging that he fraudulently obtained nearly $5 million in government-backed loans meant for businesses struggling with the financial effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

“According to the complaint, Jean Lavanture stole millions of dollars from important government programs created to help struggling communities during the pandemic. We are on the lookout for fraud, and we will use all available tools to prosecute those who lie, cheat, and steal from programs that America’s businesses and their employees so desperately need," Acting United States Attorney Antoinette T. Bacon stated.

FBI agents arrested Lavanture Thursday morning at a 5.6-acre New Jersey estate that he is alleged to have bought with the fraudulently obtained funds.

"The allegations against Mr. Lavanture are appalling. Small businesses have suffered devastating losses during the coronavirus pandemic and the FBI will not tolerate anyone who steals the funding designed to be a lifeline for those businesses. The FBI, along with our federal partners, will remain vigilant in making sure programs like the PPP are used as intended," FBI Special Agent in Charge Thomas F. Relford said.

A criminal complaint alleges that between June 16, and July 22, Lavanture received approximately $4,906,281 in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL), which were issued by two banks and the SBA to five Saugerties-based companies he controlled.

In the loan applications, Lavanture falsely represented that each company had employees, substantial revenues, and a payroll, and he submitted fraudulent tax documents in support of his lies, officials say.

His companies didn't report employees to the New York State Department of Labor or report income to the IRS for 2017 through 2019, according to the complaint.

"This case is an example of greed and selfishness during a time when our country is united in crisis. IRS-CI and our law enforcement partners are committed to identifying individuals like Mr. Lavanture, who would deprive struggling small businesses from much-needed economic relief for their own gain, and then quickly taking action to bring them to justice," IRS-CI Special Agent in Charge Jonathan D. Larsen said.

Lavanture improperly used loaned funds to make property purchases and pay personal expenses, further demonstrating his fraudulent intent. Lavanture has withdrawn approximately $439,503.25 of the loaned funds in cash, and drew on loaned funds when he purchased a motel in Rockaway Beach, Missouri, and transferred $952,000 in connection with the purchase of a 5.6-acre estate in Byram Township, New Jersey, that includes an 18-room Tuscan-style mansion, the complaint also alleges.

If convicted of bank fraud, Lavanture faces up to 30 years in prison