Wednesday, June 7, 2023

New York adventure park owner pleads guilty to stealing $3M in federal coronavirus aid

CENTRAL ISLIP, NY (AP) – The owner of a New York adventure park on Long Island admitted Thursday that he fraudulently obtained more than $3 million in federal coronavirus aid and spent it on himself, including on the Massachusetts island of Nantucket. But it also includes buying a house.

Donald Finley pleaded guilty to disaster relief fraud and wire fraud during a federal court hearing in Central Islip. Finley’s plea agreement calls for him to pay damages of more than $3.2 million and a fine of up to $1.25 million. He also faces up to 30 years in prison, but is not expected to get the maximum.

The sentence was to be pronounced on 8 November.

“This office will continue to investigate and prosecute those, like the defendant, who brazenly steal from government programs that were meant for small businesses and families during the pandemic,” US Attorney Brian Peace said in a statement.

Messages seeking comment were left for Finlay’s attorney, Christopher Ferguson, and for Finlay on Thursday evening at an email address and phone number listed.

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According to a report in Newsday, Finley said in court, “I deeply regret my conduct.”

Finlay, 61, of Locust Valley, New York, is the owner of Bevil Adventure Park on Long Island’s north shore, which features a pirate-themed miniature golf course, bumper boats, an arcade and other attractions. He was also the owner of a now-defunct Jekyll & Hyde theme restaurant in Manhattan.

Prosecutors said Finlay submitted fraudulent applications for about 30 small business loans in 2020 and 2021 under the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program, receiving approximately $3.2 million for businesses he controlled.

Prosecutors said that instead of spending the money on expenses related to the pandemic, Finley diverted it to personal uses, including the purchase of a Nantucket home in February 2021.

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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