A former Olympic ice skater was charged with bank fraud and identity theft for attempting to acquire loans for more than $1.5 million that were meant to assist struggling small businesses during the pandemic, federal authorities announced Tuesday.
Luka Klasinc, 48, a Slovenian national, used falsified documents while trying to secure over $1.5 million in loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans program, according to a statement from Audrey Strauss, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Klasinc was arrested Monday in Manhattan and was expected to appear in federal court Tuesday, federal prosecutors said.
He attempted to illegally secure the loans while businesses across the country fought to survive during the coronavirus crisis, Strauss said.
“As alleged, at a time when U.S. small businesses were struggling because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Klasinc thought he could scam his way to easy money," Strauss said. "Thanks to the diligence of the FBI, his plans have been put on ice. He will now be held accountable for his alleged brazen lies.”
Klasinc finished 26th in men's singles ice skating at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France.
His attorney, Marisa Cabrera, did not immediately respond to an NBC News request for comment on Tuesday.
According to the criminal complaint, Klasinc is the sole owner of BOB77, LLC.
BOB77 advertised itself as a management company that collaborated with global partners to stage ice-themed amusement park style events throughout the world, federal authorities said. Klasinc’s company, beginning in about 2019, opened three business bank accounts with an international financial institution, officials said.
The company received $1,595,800 between July 2020 and September 2020 through 11 loans from the federal economic injury program, officials said.
During the same time frame, authorities said, there “were numerous wire transfers from the BOB77 accounts to international beneficiaries,” the complaint said.
But the international bank working with BOB77 froze all funds to the company’s business accounts in September 2020 after identifying potential fraud, officials said.
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. said in the statement that federal authorities take alleged abuse of the federal program very seriously.
“Loans issued on behalf of the SBA were intended to provide relief for businesses struggling during the pandemic," he said. "Time and again we see instances of fraud and abuse of this program. We will investigate all instances of alleged SBA loan fraud.”