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Pizzeria owner arrested for allegedly using PPP loan to buy alpaca farm

May 5 (UPI) -- A former Massachusetts pizza parlor owner was arrested for allegedly filing a fraudulent loan application under the Paycheck Protection Program.

Dana L. McIntyre, 57, was charged with one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering after being accused of falsely inflating the size of his restaurant Rast Pasta Pizzeria in Beverly and Essex Mass., in order to obtain a loan of more than $660,000. The Justice Department said Tuesday he used the money to open an alpaca farm in Vermont.

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According to the complaint, McIntyre said in his application that the pizzeria employed nearly 50 people, while records indicated that the business paid fewer than 10 employees both before and after the application was submitted.

It also alleges he sold the pizzeria after receiving the loan and used nearly all of the funds to purchase a farm in Vermont, several alpacas, at least two vehicles and weekly airtime for "a cryptocurrency-themed radio show" along with other expenses including upgrades to the farm.

The Paycheck Protection Program was established under the $2.2 trillion CARES Act and initially provided $350 billion in funding for loans to small businesses with the goal of allowing them to pay their employees amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Funds quickly were exhausted, prompting Congress to approve more money, and the Justice Department launched an investigation into claims of fraud last year after instances of large companies, including restaurant chain Shake Shack and the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers, applying for and receiving approval for the loans.

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National Institutes of Health official Dr. Anthony Fauci (C) speaks about the coronavirus during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C. Health and Human Services Secretary Alexander Azar (L) announced that the United States is declaring the virus a public health emergency and issued a federal quarantine order of 14 days for 195 Americans. Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI | License Photo

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