A high-profile entrepreneur from New York, who owns the vibrant Bayville Adventure Park, has confessed to misappropriating federal relief funds intended for businesses hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Donald Finley acknowledged in a federal court hearing in Central Islip, NY, that he deceived the government to the tune of over $3.2 million, even splurging a portion of this illegally-gained windfall on a high-end residence, the U.S. Attorney’s Office revealed.
Friday's Newsday cover: Donald Finley, a Locust Valley resident who owns the Bayville Adventure Park, pleaded guilty on Thursday to disaster relief fraud and wire fraud. https://t.co/siF6pmHmeV pic.twitter.com/805CXh6YH1
— Newsday (@Newsday) May 26, 2023
The charges laid bare a year-long scheme, from March 2020 to March 2021, during which Finley, who was also the owner of the now-closed Jekyll & Hyde theme restaurant located in the heart of Manhattan, reportedly fabricated applications for nearly 30 small business loans.
He capitalized on funds set aside for pandemic-hit businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDLP), both components of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
Instead of using these funds to keep his businesses afloat, Finley admittedly diverted them to enhance his personal estate and finance his personal expenditures, one of which included the purchase of a property on the Massachusetts island of Nantucket.
Daniel Brubaker, the Inspector-in-Charge at the US Postal Inspection Service, condemned Finley’s actions in a press release on May 25.
“Mr. Finley took advantage of a program intended to be used to support small businesses as part of the CARES Act of 2020, when he devised a scheme to submit fraudulent information to the government to obtain millions in funds during the pandemic to fund his lavish lifestyle” he stated.
While he said he is “deeply remorseful”, Finley is faced with the obligation of paying restitution exceeding $3.2 million and a potential fine of up to $1.25 million. He could also be handed a jail term of up to 30 years, with sentencing scheduled for November 8. However, he was released from court on an unsecured bond worth $500,000 while he awaits sentencing.
This case represents the fraud and misappropriation COVID relief funds have seen since they were established.
However, authorities hope Finley’s outcome will serve as a deterrent to others who may contemplate similar illegal activities.
“This Office will continue investigating and prosecuting those, like the defendant, who shamelessly steal from government programs that were intended for struggling small businesses and families during the pandemic,” United States Attorney Breon Peace stated.