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Financial Crimes

Central Florida businessman charged in $44 million bank fraud scheme

ORLANDO, Fla. — A central Florida man is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, nine counts of bank fraud and nine counts of making false statements to financial institutions. The indictment against him was unsealed Thursday. This case was investigated by Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Criminal Investigation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the U.S. Secret Service and the St. Cloud IRS-U.S. Secret Service Financial Crimes Task Force.

If convicted, Pedro Benevides, 44, of Astatula, faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison, a $1 million fine for each of 19 charged counts and a monetary judgment of $44 million – the proceeds of the charged conspiracy.

According to the indictment, from about 2005 through about September 2008, Benevides allegedly used several businesses to obtain $44 million in various loans from federally insured financial institutions. Benevides submitted and caused documents to be submitted to those institutions that contained materially false and fraudulent information. In particular, some documents contained false information concerning the income and assets of the person or entity in whose name Benevides sought the loans, mortgages and lines of credit. Other documents included false and forged tax return documents, statements from financial institutions, bank statements and official checks. Benevides also included false or forged correspondence from a title and escrow company detailing funds that did not exist.

On occasion, Benevides also submitted false loan applications supported by false documents. Once Benevides obtained the loans, he used the funds from the loans to pay interest and principal on previously obtained loans, which he also obtained through fraud. Benevides also used the funds from the loans to fund his lifestyle and the businesses he controlled.

An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of the federal criminal laws, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.