US man used COVID-19 relief money to buy a Lamborghini, prosecutors say

Azi Paybarah, The New York Times

Posted at Aug 05 2020 05:16 PM

US man used COVID-19 relief money to buy a Lamborghini, prosecutors say 1
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A Texas man this week became the second person in less than 2 weeks to be accused by federal prosecutors of using COVID-19 relief money to buy a Lamborghini.

The man, Lee Price III, 29, of Houston, received more than $1.6 million under the federal Paycheck Protection Program after he submitted 5 applications in May and June with fraudulent information to numerous banks claiming to employ dozens of people, prosecutors in Houston said Tuesday.

In response to 2 of those applications, a pair of banks that officials did not identify deposited money into bank accounts controlled by Price, according to a criminal complaint filed in the Southern District of Texas.

With that money, Price went on a lavish spending spree, according to the complaint. On June 26 — the day Price received $937,500 in response to 1 request — he purchased a $14,000 Rolex watch, the complaint stated. The next day, it said, he bought a 2019 Lamborghini Urus for $233,337.60.

And over the next 3 days, he spent more than $700 at a liquor store, around $2,000 at a strip club and more than $2,500 at 2 Houston nightclubs, according to the complaint.

In response to another application, Price received $752,452, the prosecutors said. That money went toward the purchase of a 2020 Ford F-350 pickup truck and the lease for a luxury apartment in midtown Houston, the prosecutors said.

Price was arrested Tuesday and charged with wire fraud, bank fraud, making false statements to financial institutions and engaging in prohibited monetary transactions, the prosecutors said.

A person who answered a telephone number listed for Price immediately hung up Tuesday night. A federal public defender was assigned to represent Price, according to court records. An email message sent to the public defender’s office Tuesday night was not immediately returned.

Last week, prosecutors in Florida arrested and charged David Hines of Miami with three felonies, accusing him of having used COVID-19 relief money to buy a blue Lamborghini Huracán, the authorities said.

Hines’ lawyer, Chad Piotrowski, said in a statement that his client was “a legitimate business owner who, like millions of Americans, suffered financially during the pandemic” and “is anxious to tell his side of the story when the time comes.”