Businessman Randy Frasinelli, who ripped off the government for $3.8 million and then submitted 13 forged character letters saying how wonderful he is, will spend the next 6½ years behind bars for his deceptions.
U.S. District Judge W. Scott Hardy handed down that term on Wednesday along with an order that Frasinelli pay back the money he stole by filing for bogus COVID-19 loans meant to help businesses get through the pandemic.
Frasinelli didn’t have any companies but pretended he did.
The letters, ranging from a supposedly grateful homeless man praising Frasinelli’s kindness to one purportedly from the bishop of the Pittsburgh Diocese, all were designed to fool the judge into thinking Frasinelli, 66, is worthy of leniency.
Federal prosecutors and the FBI said they’re all fake — just like the papers he submitted for those loans.
“The scope and magnitude of this defendant’s ongoing fraud and deception is enormous,” said Troy Rivetti, the acting U.S. attorney. “He lied in an effort to obtain pandemic relief funds while already facing charges of illegally taking federal money meant for businesses on the verge of collapse.”
He then submitted the fraudulent letters, Rivetti said, demonstrating “a complete lack of respect for the law.”
Frasinelli, of Scott, filed a series of fraudulent applications to the Paycheck Protection Program set up to help businesses stay afloat as the pandemic shut down the nation’s economy in 2020.
He filed one loan request even after he’d been arrested and released on bond.
Frasinelli invented companies, all with variations on the name of his former company, Grant-Williams, and made up employee numbers and payroll figures.
In one instance, Frasinelli submitted an application to Lendio Inc. in the name of Grant-Williams Global in May 2020. He said the company had 28 employees and a $210,000 monthly payroll. He filed a 2020 IRS profit-or-loss form, a monthly payroll report and a JPMorgan Chase Bank account statement.
It was all a pack of lies, as were the other loan applications. There were no companies, no employees, no payrolls, no bank accounts.
He pleaded guilty last year to bank fraud and money laundering following an investigation by the FBI and the IRS, admitting that he used the stolen money for a fleet of fancy cars, vacations, gold bars, an African safari, a Mexican villa and other luxuries.
Frasinelli was at one time a founding principal of Grant-Williams Associates, according to media accounts from the early 1990s, but apparently had fallen on hard times. His lawyer, Rachael Santoriella, said he also suffers from bipolar disorder.
She had asked for time served but also requested that she be allowed to withdraw from the case after she learned about the bogus letters.
The judge refused both requests.
It was the letters that earned Frasinelli extra prison time.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Bengel asked that the sentencing range be increased from 63 to 78 months to 78 months to 97 months, or more than eight years.
The judge agreed. He also refused a request to let Frasinelli self-report to prison. Many white-collar criminals are allowed to do that, but the fear was that Frasinelli wouldn’t show up on the reporting date.
U.S. marshals took him into custody immediately to start the sentence.