Saturday, November 27News That Matters

Miami man who bought Lamborghini with COVID-19 relief money sentenced to six years

A Miami businessman was sentenced to more than six years in prison Wednesday after pleading guilty to fleecing millions from a federal COVID-19 relief program and buying luxury items with the money, including a $318,000 Lamborghini Huracán Evo.

David T. Hines, 29, arrested last July, was ordered by a Miami federal judge to turn over the luxury Italian sports car and $3.4 million that he received in government loans.

Hines, who owned South Florida moving businesses, applied to the Bank of America for seven loans under a Small Business Administration program. The Payroll Protection Program (PPP) was meant to help struggling businesses during the coronavirus pandemic cover legitimate expenses, such as employee salaries. The PPP loans are forgiven by the government if they are properly used by businesses.

The SBA’s payroll program totaling nearly $650 billion was approved by Congress as part of the CARES Act after the coronavirus struck the nation in March 2020, but Hines’ and other similar fraud cases have been piling up in South Florida and other parts of the country.

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In Hines’ case, Bank of America approved three of his applications, totaling more than $3.9 million. One of his first purchases was the Lamborghini, according to a criminal complaint. Prosecutor Michael Berger said Hines also used the loan money for dating websites, jewelry and clothes and for stays at high-end hotels such as the Fontainebleau and Setai on Miami Beach.

Last July, Hines was involved in a hit-and-run accident, which helped investigators link the Lamborghini to him.

“As part of his guilty plea, Hines admitted that he fraudulently sought millions of dollars in PPP loans through applications to an insured financial institution on behalf of different companies,” the Justice Department said after his guilty plea in February. “Plea documents indicate that in the days and weeks following the disbursement of PPP funds, Hines did not make payroll payments that he claimed on his loan applications. He did, however, use the PPP proceeds for personal expenses.”

The federal case against Hines is not his first brush with the law.

In 2018, Hines flagged down a police officer on Miami Beach to report that his girlfriend had stolen his Lamborghini. Police later found the sports car. But Hines became uncooperative, and both he and the girlfriend fled before eventually being found and arrested.

Hines received a probationary sentence for resisting an officer without violence, a misdemeanor.

Hines is not alone in exploiting the SBA’s Payroll Protection Program. The Justice Department has prosecuted more than 100 defendants in more than 70 criminal cases, seizing $60 million fleeced from the SBA program.

South Florida is recognized as being at the center of the nation’s COVID-19 relief fraud, authorities said at a recent news conference.