A Palm Bay man convicted of fraudulently collecting more than $1.3 million in COVID-19 relief funds has been sentenced to five years in prison.
Johnson Eustache was sentenced Tuesday in Orlando federal court, according to court records. He pleaded guilty in August to wire fraud and aiding and assisting in the preparation of false tax returns. He must also forfeit approximately $700,000 seized from several bank accounts, as well as real properties in Palm Bay and Poinciana.
According to court documents, Eustache submitted 13 different fraudulent Economic Injury Disaster Loan and Paycheck Protection Program applications to the Small Business Administration and other lenders from March 2020 to April 2021. In total, he sought more than $2.1 million in pandemic-related emergency benefits, according to the documents.
Eustache included false statements in the applications regarding criminal history, number of employees and total payroll, prosecutors said.
Lenders approved four PPP loans and four EIDL loans, totaling more than $1.3 million, officials said. Eustache used the money to make personal financial investments, to purchase real estate and to build residential properties.
Beside the pandemic-relief fraud, Eustache, while working as a tax return preparer, filed 28 returns for taxpayers from 2017 to 2021 containing false adjustments, false income amounts or false deductions, investigators said. Eustache included these false items fraudulently to inflate the amount of the taxpayers’ refunds, and the total loss to the IRS was $87,044, officials said.
The Paycheck Protection Program represents billions of dollars in forgivable small-business loans for Americans struggling because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s part of the coronavirus relief package that became federal law in 2020.
United Way of Broward County is pleased to announce that James Heaton has joined the non-profit organization as the new Senior Director of United Way of Broward County’s MISSION UNITED. In his new role, Heaton will focus on the development of strategies and tactics for an integrated approach to United Way of Broward County’s community impact process for the MISSION UNITED Program.
As Senior Director, Heaton will focus on developing and implementing MISSION UNITED’s strategic and operation plan by overseeing its day-to-day operations and managing its direct services and System of Care. He will be responsible for the coordination of the MISSION UNITED Advisory Council, developing a competitive procurement process to identify local community agencies to successfully deliver services to Veterans and their families, in addition to overseeing Federal and State grants.
“James is a terrific addition to our team, and we’re very excited to welcome him to MISSION UNITED,” said Kathleen Cannon, President/CEO of United Way of Broward County. “He is a high-energy leader and change agent, pairing insightful legal acumen with a passion for military and Veteran families.”
Heaton’s career is defined by his advocacy for homeless, disabled, and at-risk Veterans. He has been active in the South Florida pro bono community for several years assisting military and Veteran families through the Miami VA Health Care System, US Southern Command, Florida International University’s legal clinics, the Broward County Bar Association (BCBA), and United Way of Broward County. Additionally, Heaton has presented on a variety of legal topics for the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, the American Bar Association, the Florida Bar, and various local voluntary bar associations.
“I am both honored and excited to be joining United Way of Broward County’s MISSION UNITED team,” said Heaton. “I look forward to bettering the lives of Veterans (and their families) in the community by continuing the mission of providing them with the services they need to acclimate to civilian life.”
Prior to taking on the role as Senior Director at United Way of Broward County’s MISSION UNITED, Heaton served as the supervising attorney for the Veterans Project at Legal Aid Service of Broward County, assisting low-income and disabled military Veterans, active-duty service-members, reservists, and their families facing a variety of civil, administrative, and military related legal issues by engaging legal resources throughout the community.
Heaton completed his Bachelor of Arts (BA) in history with honors from Florida Atlantic University and later received his Juris Doctor from Florida International University’s College of Law in Miami. He currently serves as President for the BCBA’s Young Lawyers Section, Vice-Chair for the Florida Bar’s Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, and as a member of the American Bar Association’s Commission on Homelessness and Poverty. Additionally, James was the co-chair of the Broward Days Veterans Impact Group focusing on legislative advocacy to improve access to fair housing, mental health services and education for servicemembers and military Veterans during the 2019, 2020, and 2021 Florida legislative sessions.
United Way of Broward County is a volunteer driven, community-based, non-profit organization servicing Broward County for more than 80 years. United Way of Broward County fights for the Health, Education and Financial Prosperity of EVERY person in our community. United Way of Broward County is the catalyst for change and convener of partnerships that unite the hearts, minds, and resources within the Broward community. For more information, visit www.UnitedWayBroward.org.
About United Way of Broward County’s MISSION UNITED
MISSION UNITED is a critical program supporting US military service members, Veterans and their families in Broward County by helping them acclimate to civilian life. Key focus areas include employment services, education, health, legal assistance, financial stability and housing support. Through MISSION UNITED, United Way of Broward County is aligning existing services and creating solutions where there are gaps in support. or more information about MISSION UNITED, please call 954-4-UNITED or visit www.MISSIONUNITEDbroward.org, Facebook or Twitter.