A Miami real estate agent has been sentenced to three and a half years in prison for fraudulently obtaining more than $380,000 in COVID relief loans, which she spent on renting a Bentley, renting a luxury apartment and undergoing cosmetic procedures .
Daniela Rendon, 31, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in April 2023 after the prosecution dropped six additional counts of wire fraud, two counts of money laundering and one count of aggravated impersonation.
Rendon, a mother of three, admitted her actions were “driven by insatiable greed”.
She told a Miami federal court on Thursday, “In hindsight, it becomes too tempting to utter the words ‘everyone was doing it’ as a feeble attempt to rationalize my actions.”
“I regretfully confess that I once foolishly believed that the victims of my crimes were just the faceless entities of the US government.”
Rendon used COVID relief funds to lease a 2021 Bentley Bentayga (retail price $181,000) which she showed off on her Instagram account, pictured
Instead of using it to support his business, Rendon used the funds to rent a 2021 Bentley, a luxury apartment, cosmetic procedures and buy shoes
U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore appreciated her contrition and the 30-page dissertation she submitted, which detailed her remorse.
He sentenced her to the minimum prison term, sparing her an additional year behind bars.
Assistant US Attorney Jonathan Bailyn recommended a three-and-a-half-year sentence while his defense attorney, Robert Mandell, asked for a lenient sentence of five years probation.
She could have faced 20 years in prison for wire fraud.
“It’s not as easy to see that you’re really stealing from your neighbors, your friends and other citizens,” Moore said, according to The Miami Herald.
“It’s their money that goes to the treasury that makes it possible to have these kinds of programs.”
In the early months of the pandemic, federal funds flowed to businesses to keep them afloat and allow them to pay for essential overhead costs.
The Small Business Administration rapidly rolled out several pandemic relief programs, including the Economic Disaster Loan (EIDL) and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans.
Photos posted to her social media account show Daniela Rendon, 31, enjoying a lavish lifestyle funded by COVID relief loans
Among other things, the money was used to lease a 2021 Bentley Bentayga, retail price $181,000, which she showed on her Instagram account.
Rendon posted photos of herself on a social media account wearing fancy clothes, going on tropical vacations and traveling on private jets
Rendon presents itself as an “Ultra Luxury” real estate agency
Rendon was far from discreet when it came to flaunting his lavish lifestyle
They are now trying to recoup the mis-spent funds and prosecute those responsible.
A surveillance report released in June 2023 by the SBA’s Office of Inspector General found that 17% of the $1.2 trillion was stolen through fraudulent schemes.
The estimated fraud split is $136 billion from EIDL programs and $64 billion through PPP loans.
“The pandemic has presented a whole-of-government challenge,” Hannibal “Mike” Ware, the inspector general, wrote in the report.
“Fraudsters have found vulnerabilities and coordinated systems to bypass controls and easily access funds for eligible small businesses and entrepreneurs affected by the economic crisis.”
Rendon was able to get his hands on the money intended for struggling companies by falsifying business data to secure PPP funds.
Rendon applied for his business loans through the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program for $371,000 and the Economic Disaster Relief Program for $10,000.
Rendon reportedly received $381,000 in relief funds in his personal account, though they were strictly for his ‘Luxury Real Estate’ business.
The Colombian-born real estate agent fabricated information such as income, payroll, costs, tax information and number of employees.
The falsified data was submitted to lenders in New Jersey and Idaho, with the loans disbursed directly to him through his corporate bank account.
Rendon, which presents itself as an “Ultra Luxe” real estate agency on LinkedIn, then transferred the payments to herself and her circle of friends.
She arranged for a payroll processor in New Jersey to process the loans and cut the checks which were then issued to family and friends.
Rendon didn’t shy away from the wealth she had amassed, regularly flaunting herself on her social media accounts and 33,000 followers.
Among other things, the money was used to lease a 2021 Bentley Bentayga, which is selling for around $181,000, which she showed off on her Instagram account.
The money was also used to rent a luxury apartment in Biscayne Bay, undergo cosmetic procedures and repair a pair of designer shoes.