When the proverbial feces hit the air distributor early in 2020, with the health crisis metastasizing into an economic one as businesses were forced to shutter to halt the spread of COVID-19, the United States government kicked out the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This massive low-interest loan program was aimed at small businesses, with the stipulation that if at least 60 percent of the funds were used to keep payroll (even for employees not presently working due to health restrictions) and pay rent or mortgages, the loan would be forgiven entirely. One Florida applicant, however, used his PPP funds to purchase a $318,000 Lamborghini.
If you’re thinking the Lambo was covered by the PPP money, well, you’re wrong—and for a variety of reasons. First, David T. Hines, the accused, wasn’t supposed to have received PPP loan money in the first place (or, at least, not as much as he tried to nab). He allegedly submitted applications for four businesses, inflating or making up his payroll expenses on each application. As a result, he qualified under false pretenses for millions of dollars in loans. It seems shortly after he began receiving those funds ($3.9 million of the $13.5 million he sought) he began spending the money on luxury goods in Miami Beach, stuffing the ol’ mattress with cash (a cool $3.4 million) and dropping six figures on a 2020 Lamborghini Huracan sports car.
Notice how we didn’t mention anything about Mr. Hines’ payroll expenses, rent, or mortgage. The Department of Justice’s criminal complaint instead lists disbursements from the PPP money on Hines’ balance sheets to “mom” ($15,000 apiece), “Graff Diamonds” ($8,530), and Hines himself (tens of thousands of dollars, in addition to the Italian sports car). The Lamborghini was jointly registered to Hines and one of his companies. It has been seized, of course, and Mr. Hines faces charges by the Southern District of Florida for making a false statement to a lending institution, bank fraud, and engaging in transactions in unlawful proceeds.
We have a few takeaways from this. Notably, that fraud is wrong. That said, if you’re gonna rip off the U.S. Government, why not think bigger than Lamborghini’s entry-level sports car? There is the bigger, more powerful Aventador, as well as the newer Urus crossover SUV. Oh, and let’s not forget the most important lesson from all of this: there’s no such thing as free money.