Real Estate Influencer Charged With Using $381,000 in COVID Funds on Luxury Car, Apartment and Cosmetic Surgery
"Ultra luxury" real estate agent is in trouble now.
A flashy Miami real estate influencer has been charged with fraud for using COVID relief funds to finance an Instagram-ready lifestyle that included expensive clothes, a luxury car, an expansive apartment, and private jets. Daniela Rendon, 31, displayed all of those trappings on her social media accounts to 33,000 followers. But according to the US Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, taxpayers picked up much of the tab.
Authorities say Rendon received $381,000 through the Small Business Administration and Paycheck Protection Program to support her business during the pandemic. Instead, she allegedly spent it on luxury items for herself and close friends. Read on to find out more about how Rendon allegedly spent the money, how she was brought to authorities' attention, and what happens now.
The Alleged Scam
Rendon, who referred to herself as an "ultra luxury" real estate agent on LinkedIn, allegedly falsified records to access the PPP funds, which were designed to help struggling businesses pay their employees and keep operating as COVID-related closures brought in-person commerce to a halt.
Officials allege Rendon fabricated her revenue, payroll, costs, tax information, and employee count. The fake data was submitted to banks in New Jersey and Idaho, and $381,000 in loans was disbursed directly into her corporate bank account.
Where Did the Money Go?
The U.S. Attorney's Office says that Rendon used the money to:
- Lease a 2021 Bentley Bentayga (value: $181,000)
- Rent a luxury apartment in Biscayne Bay
- Pay for cosmetic dermatology procedures
- Repair her designer shoes
She has been charged with seven counts of wire fraud, two counts of money laundering, and one count of aggravated identity theft. Rendon faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted. After the prosecutor argued she was a flight risk likely to escape to her native Colombia, a judge set her bond at $150,000.
Rendon Disbursed Money to Friends, Authorities Allege
According to the federal indictment, Rendon applied for loans through the Small Business Administration's Paycheck Protection Program for $371,000 and the Economic Injury Disaster Relief program for $10,000.
Rendon then allegedly transferred the payments to herself and close friends, the Miami Herald reported. She allegedly arranged for a payroll processor in New Jersey to receive the loan funds and cut checks to family and friends.
Pastor Accused of $8 Million COVID Scam in Florida
Numerous examples of fraudulent uses of COVID rescue funds have recently come to light. In December, a Florida pastor and his son were arrested and charged with fraudulently obtaining more than $8 million in federal COVID relief payments, which were partly used to buy a luxury home near Disney World.
The two men face six charges, including conspiracy to commit bank fraud, visa fraud, and conspiracy to commit bank fraud. Josh Edwards is also charged with making a false statement to a lending institution, according to the Justice Department. Both face up to 30 years in prison.
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A $704,000 Scam In California
Also in December, a rapper who bragged about scamming a COVID relief program out of hundreds of thousands of dollars was sentenced to six years in prison and ordered to pay the federal government more than $700,000 in restitution. Fontrell Antonio Baines, 33, a.k.a. Nuke Bizzle, boasted in a YouTube video about obtaining money from a program intended for people who lost jobs during the pandemic.
Authorities said he got $704,760 by filing 92 fraudulent Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claims to the state of California between July and September 2020.