Falls man pleads guilty to defrauding Small Business Administration

·1 min read

Sep. 10—BUFFALO — A Falls man has pleaded guilty to defrauding the United States Small Business Administration (SBA).

Leo Benevento, 57, pleaded guilty in a deal with prosecutors to a single count of wire fraud during a hearing before U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, and a fine of $250,000.

The prosecutors handing the case said Benevento fraudulently obtained two loans from the Small Business Association under the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Program, which was part of the federal government's Covid relief efforts. The EIDL Program 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 like the COVID pandemic.

Benevento was accused of submitting two false applications for loans related to his businesses, WNY 24 7 Realty and Benevento Realty. In those applications, prosecutors charged that Benevento "grossly inflated annual revenue and grossly underreported annual expenses for the businesses."

Based on the applications, the SBA approved and funded loans totaling $117,300 under the EIDL Program for Benevento.

As part of his plea agreement, Benevento reimbursed the SBA for the amount of the loans.

He faces sentencing from Arcara on Dec. 19.