2021 has been a bad year for Jeremie Saintvil of Delray Beach, Florida. In January, the so-called 46-year-old tech entrepreneur and former Apple Store manager filed for bankruptcy. It turned out that his company, Verb World, which claimed to have created a mobile app to gamify investing for millennials, had not taken off. Then, on Wednesday, Saintvil was accused of a $ 1.5 million Covid-19 relief fraud plan in which he allegedly stole the identities of residents of nursing homes, including at least a centenarian. And, according to the Justice Department, one of the victims of identity theft was Saintvil’s own mother.
Prosecutors say Saintvil managed to acquire identity documents for eight elderly people and used them to open lines of credit, funneling the money into a Wells Fargo account he controlled. Using the same identities and a handful of inactive or fictitious businesses, Saintvil then applied for payment protection loans (small business administration-backed loans that help businesses maintain their workforce during COVID-19) , said the Justice Department. PPP loans, authorized in the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020, have an interest rate of only 1% and should only be used for salary costs, mortgage interest, rent and public services.
One of those inactive or fictitious companies was Verb World, the DOJ added in its charge. The company “was not a commercial entity registered to do business in Florida (…) did not have seven employees and did not pay an average of about $ 41,000 in monthly salary expenses,” as claimed. Saintvil, according to the charges.
Neither Saintvil nor his lawyer had responded to requests for comment at the time of publication. He remains innocent until proven guilty. He faces up to 35 years in prison if convicted. His initial appearance is scheduled for this afternoon at 2:30 p.m. EST at the US courthouse in Gainesville. GM said Forbes Saintvil surrendered and was arrested on Wednesday. His trial is scheduled to begin on May 19.
Ahead of this week’s accusations, Saintvil was trying to break into the tech market with Verb, founded in 2016. He claimed that its mobile app allowed users to “make money without investing by playing, socializing and learning.” . He even managed to get a spot on the Nasdaq YouTube channel in 2016 to talk about all things gamification.
However, it is not clear how the app actually works. His website is now down. Co-founder Krista Peterson had not responded to a request for comment at the time of posting. His LinkedIn does not refer to his time at Verb.
This is not Saintvil’s first foray into the courts. He had previously sued Apple for unpaid overtime, a matter that was settled out of court. And this is not the first time that Saintvil has faced serious allegations. He was previously charged with sexual harassment in a civil lawsuit in 2010 while employed by an accounting firm, after an employee said he indicated she would be wise to have sex with him if she wanted to support her family. She started having sex with him soon after, according to the complainant’s complaint, after which her husband divorced and she lost contact with her children. Saintvil denied any wrongdoing and the case was also settled and dismissed out of court.
The Covid-19 fraud figures, meanwhile, were already surprisingly high and are on the rise. By October 2020, the House subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis said up to $ 4 billion in Covid-19 loans had been flagged red. This was after the Justice Department said in September it had accused 57 people of trying to steal $ 175 million in loans.