North Wales Woman Charged with Defrauding COVID-19 Relief Programs

US Department of Justice

PHILADELPHIA, PA — United States Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero announced that Giuseppina “Josephine” Leone, 61, of North Wales, PA, was charged this week by indictment with three counts of wire fraud. The charges allege that Leone made false representations to secure funds from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF), designed to provide financial assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the indictment, Leone and her husband owned Ristorante San Marco (RSM), an Italian restaurant in Ambler, PA. In October 2019, they entered into an Agreement for Sale of Real Property, listing themselves as sellers of the RSM property for $1,575,000. The restaurant closed temporarily in March 2020 due to the pandemic and never reopened.

Despite this, Leone allegedly submitted a fraudulent PPP loan application in April 2020, claiming that RSM had 17 employees and would use the loan for payroll and operating expenses. The loan was approved, and $138,000 was deposited into RSM’s bank account. It was later forgiven based on further alleged misrepresentations.

In January 2021, Leone purportedly submitted another fraudulent PPP loan application for $120,000, making similar false claims. This loan was also approved and forgiven.

The indictment also accuses Leone of defrauding the RRF program. In May 2021, she allegedly submitted a grant application requesting $699,196, falsely claiming the funds would be used for employee wages while the restaurant remained closed. The request was approved, and the funds were deposited into RSM’s bank account. Leone sold the restaurant property in June 2021 but continued to misrepresent the use of the RRF funds over a year later.

If convicted, Leone faces up to 20 years in prison for each count and fines totaling $750,000. She may also be required to forfeit $957,196, the amount allegedly obtained through the fraudulent schemes.

The investigation was conducted by the Small Business Administration Office of Inspector General, the FBI, and Homeland Security Investigations. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Angella Middleton.

It is important to note that an indictment is merely an accusation, and Leone is presumed innocent until proven guilty in court.

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