Grafton alpaca farmer sentenced to 2 years for Covid funds fraud Lawyer: McIntyre to sell Houghtonville Farm to repay theft

Alpacas File photo by Timothy Elberly of Unsplash

By Adam Gaffin
Universal Hub in Boston

A Beverly, Mass., pizza-shop owner who received $680,000 in federal Covid-19 relief funds based on applications with inflated employee counts, then used the money to jump from pizza making to alpaca farming in Grafton, Vt., was sentenced last Wednesday, Aug. 30, to two years in federal prison for his woolly fabrications, the U.S. Attorney’s office announced.

Dana McIntyre, 59, who remained at the Houghtonville Farm he purchased even after his scheme was uncovered and the money he had not spent on land, fences and alpacas was seized, was also ordered to pay a total of $679,156 in restitution and forfeiture, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office for the District of Massachusetts.  He also received three years of supervised release.

According to his attorney, McIntyre will be selling Houghtonville Farm to help repay the funds he owes.

In April, McIntyre, the former owner of Rasta Pasta, pleaded guilty to four counts of wire fraud and three counts of money laundering. See article: Grafton alpaca farmer pleads guilty to Covid funds fraud

McIntyre was arrested in May, 2021, after federal agents began looking into his Payroll Protection Plan application, on which he stated he had 47 employees and a monthly payroll of $265,000 at Rasta Pizza, when, in fact, he had maybe three to six employees and a monthly payroll closer to $10,000.

With the money in hand, he spent $395,000 for a farm in Grafton, along with $10,000 on alpacas, $7,800 on fencing and $16,555 for storage sheds – as well as $14,000 for a 2007 GMC Sierra and $8,500 for a 1950 Hudson. He also used some of the money to buy time on a Vermont radio station to broadcast a show on cryptocurrency investing.

Prosecutors had sought 32 months in prison. In a sentencing memorandum to U.S. District Court Judge Denise Casper, they wrote:

During a national catastrophe when the federal government and lenders were racing to get loans out to small businesses and in turn, wages to employees who needed the money to survive, the Defendant took advantage of the program by stealing. He made up false information about fictitious companies purportedly operated by his children, and he reported grossly inaccurate information about his own business and work status. He did not merely steal from the government (although that alone is reprehensible); he stole from a program specifically designed to provide a lifeline to existing small businesses and their employees. He stole from a limited pool of money, which ultimately was exhausted, and he harmed not only the government, but also other businesses that truly needed those loans and, consequently, their employees. And he involved his children in his illegal activity by using their names and information in an attempt to fraudulently obtain additional funds meant to help real businesses through real economic disaster.

After he obtained a massive loan for the small pizzeria that he actually operated, the Defendant sold that business and used the loan proceeds to make a fresh start for himself in Vermont. He acquired and upgraded a farm, stocked it with alpacas, bought automobiles, and cut checks to a radio station so he could continue to expound on cryptocurrency and current events on the airwaves. No portion of the loan proceeds went toward keeping a business running or employees paid.

Notably, the Defendant’s crime was not a momentary lapse in judgment. He did not submit just one false application. The Defendant systematically filled out fraudulent application documents until he was eventually awarded a loan that he did not deserve. The PUA claims that the Defendant submitted underscore his greed; even after obtaining a six-figure PPP loan, the Defendant continued to falsely collect smaller amounts of pandemic-related unemployment assistance, for no discernable reason other than that the PUA was another emergency program for the Defendant to take advantage of. …

A 32-month sentence will serve as a warning and deterrent to others inclined to exploit similar relief programs in the future. It will illustrate that relief programs are not designed to be cash grabs and that the receipt of relief funds is not a right, but rather a privilege afforded to those who qualify based on true and accurate information.

McIntyre’s attorney, however, argued that 12 months was more than enough to teach him a lesson on a life already filled with misery: His father died before he was 3 and his stepfather repeatedly sexually abused him and his three brothers and when his mother finally left the stepfather, she struggled to support her children, and McIntyre still remembers the shame of “having to present a punch-card at the cafeteria to obtain lunch.”

And while he eventually saw success in his work life, it all ended when his wife left him and made false accusations against him and he became a pothead and an alcoholic, with impaired judgment, his attorney said.

His arrest on May 4, 2021, which resulted in the immediate cancellation of his radio shows, shocked McIntyre into an acute awareness that he needed to break from the path he was on. Since that day, McIntyre has maintained continuous sobriety — he has used neither marijuana nor alcohol. In so doing, McIntyre has been able to repair the damage he caused to his relationship with his son and daughter …

In addition, McIntyre tried to find gainful employment apart from the farm he knew he would eventually be required to forfeit. In the months following his arrest, McIntyre was hired … as an estimator and salesman which had a commission structure that had the potential for him to make many times its base salary of $75,000. He was terminated during his second day on the job after the company learned about the instant charges. McIntyre was then able to find a job in door-to-door sales for cable and internet services which paid exclusively on commission. After knocking on over 300 doors during a 2-week period in January 2022 with minimal results, he decided to pursue other opportunities but soon found that his pending charges were an obstacle he was unable to overcome. He has since found success from the time he has devoted to the alpaca tours at the farm and maintaining the property for AirBnB, garnering hundreds of 5-star reviews in the process that speak to his kindness and hospitality. Although this will not be an option for him upon his release, McIntyre has found a construction company of small cottages and cabins willing to hire him in the future, notwithstanding his felony conviction.

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