US: Boss of ‘Group America’ Gang Accused of Misusing COVID-19 Bailout Funds
Although he was supposed to be released soon after having served 16 month for illegal firearm possession, the putative leader of a criminal clan known as Group America will remain in a New York jail now for misusing the country’s COVID-19 bailout funds.
Mileta Miljanić, the Serbian-American drug lord with alleged links to the Gambino crime family, is now facing federal charges for requesting and obtaining a COVID-19 bailout he was not entitled to, according to a recently unsealed felony complaint.
According to the document, Miljanić is charged with wire fraud and false statements to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
He applied for government help through his firm MDP Rebar Solutions LLC (MDP Rebar). However, authorities claim the construction company was mostly used for laundering millions of dollars and and siphoning money from various government funds. The money was then distributed among Miljanić’s close relatives as well as members and affiliates of organized crime networks.
In order to offer emergency financial help to millions of Americans affected by the COVID-19 pandemic’s economic repercussions, the U.S. Congress passed a federal law — the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act — in March 2020.
The CARES Act, among other things, enlarged the SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL)’s Program, which offered small firms low-interest loans of up to US$2 million before May 2020 and up to $150,000 as of May 2020.
The program could have been used to cover higher expenses due to supply chain interruptions, to fulfill commitments that could not be satisfied owing to income loss, and for other similar purposes. An applicant must have incurred “serious economic harm” as a result of COVID-19 to be eligible for an EIDL under the CARES Act.
“In about March 2020, Mileta Miljanić, the defendant, submitted and caused to be submitted an application for an SBA EIDL, that contained misrepresentation about the revenues and expenses of Miljanić’s company, MDP Rebar Solutions LLC (MDP Rebar), resulting in approximately $154,900 being paid by the SBA,” read the document.
It further explained that he indicated to the SBA, among other things, that MDP Rebar was conducting authorized business and had defined gross revenues and costs in the years leading up to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“In fact, MDP Rebar does not appear to engage in any lawful activity and is instead a shell company through which millions of dollars are passed to members and associates of organized crime,” according to the complaint.
The affidavit also shows that Miljanić’s company maintained bank accounts at three different financial institutions from December 2018 to May 2021.
During that time, the MDP Rebar accounts received approximately $6.8 million, the document said.
Approximately 84% of the money, or $5.7 million, came from a construction firm owned and controlled by a person suspected of being a Gambino Crime Family associate, while about 12%, or $810,000, came from Miljanić or members of his family. The rest of some 3%, or $202,000, came from the SBA, including small loans made available under the program while the EIDL application was still pending.
Miljanić was sentenced to six years in prison in Italy in 2010 for cocaine trafficking. He was given work release four years later, but he ditched the program and escaped to the U.S.
For years, OCCRP, KRIK, and Czech news outlet Investigace.cz have been following Group America — a decades-old criminal organization with roots in New York and the Balkans, believed to have been run by Miljanić.
Reporters discovered that it operates in dozens of countries and is suspected of supplying Europe with tonnes of cocaine from South America.
The group has a reputation for dismembering rivals with chainsaws, assassinating prominent government figures, and working with spy organizations.