ORLANDO, Fla. — A central Florida businessman pleaded guilty Monday to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison. This case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Criminal Investigation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the U.S. Secret Service (USSS), and the St. Cloud IRS-USSS Federal Financial Crimes Task Force.
Pedro "Pete" Benevides, 44, of Astatula, also agreed to forfeit $44,059,565, including several bank accounts holding approximately $40 million in cash, and three exotic sports cars: a 2008 Lamborghini Murcielago; a 2009 Audi R8; and a 2009 Lamborghini Gallardo. Benevides also agreed to pay full restitution to the financial institutions that were the victims of his offense.
"Criminals can be creative in how they steal," said Susan L. McCormick, special agent in charge for HSI Tampa. "This guilty plea and the financial restitution to the victims underscore the consequences that await those who participate in these types of schemes."
According to the plea agreement, from about 2005 through September 2008, Benevides obtained 20 commercial and residential loans and lines of credit from several federally insured financial institutions, totaling approximately $44,049,565. Benevides obtained the fraudulent loans by giving the financial institutions documents that, among other things, contained false information concerning the income and assets of Benevides or the business that he used to obtain the loans and lines of credit.
During that time, Benevides controlled several Central Florida businesses, including a private jet charter service, an exotic car rental service, and hotels in Orange and Pinellas Counties. Those companies included Superior International Investment Corporation; ABC Auto Wholesalers, Inc.; Skyview Aviation, Inc.; Fidelity Investment Group LLC; PBJB Best Investment LLC; Divello Family LLC; and Leesburg Title and Escrow Company.
Benevides then used the fraudulently-obtained funds for his own purposes, including paying the interest and principal on other, earlier loans that he had obtained in order to continue the fraudulent scheme, paying business expenses, paying the other co-conspirators involved in the scheme, and funding living expenses for himself and his family.