ADDISON — A west suburban businessman is under federal investigation for allegedly fraudulently obtaining more than $1 million from COVID-19 relief loans and using a large portion of the money to buy a fleet of luxury and sports vehicles, newly unsealed court documents show.
In all, Francesco DiStefano, of Addison, purchased four high-end vehicles over a monthlong period in 2020 using about $385,000 in ill-gotten funds, according to an FBI search warrant affidavit filed last month.
The vehicles included a 2016 Lamborghini Huracan, a 2020 Range Rover Evoque, a 2020 Porsche 911 Carrera, and a 2017 Maserati Ghibli, the 18-page affidavit alleged.
The purchases were made from a bank account tied to DiStefano’s payment-processing business, DiStefano Enterprises LLC, which is licensed in Montana, according to the affidavit. DiStefano bought several of the vehicles on the same day that funds from COVID-19 relief loans were deposited in the account, the records alleged.
The vehicles were seized last month by the FBI as part of the ongoing investigation, however DiStefano has not been charged. Reached by telephone on Thursday, DiStefano said the fraud allegations were “not true.”
“Those are company cars,” he said.
DiStefano’s attorney, Michael Goode, said his office was in the midst of an investigation into the allegations and that “things may not be what they seem.”
A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago declined to comment.
The case is the latest Chicago-area investigation into alleged fraud stemming from the COVID-19 crisis. Most have involved the Paycheck Protection Program, which was designed to help businesses struggling to make payroll and other payments during the ongoing pandemic.
Earlier this week, suburban Chicago tax preparer Hadi Isbaih, 39, was indicted on charges alleging he took kickbacks to help hundreds of customers falsify information on applications and obtain millions of dollars in pandemic-related relief loans.
Among the others: An Elgin restaurant owner accused of obtaining a PPP loan even though she’d closed the restaurant and terminated all of her employees; the owner of an Evanston-based technology company accused of falsifying paperwork seeking a $441,000 PPP loan; a south suburban businessman who allegedly was given more than $420,000 even though his company had no employees or ongoing operations; and a North Shore businessman accused of illegally price gouging customers seeking to purchase protective masks.
According to the affidavit made public this month, DiStefano first applied for a $198,000 PPP loan in May 2020, stating in paperwork his business had 14 employees and an average monthly payroll of about $80,000.
In fact, state records in Illinois and Montana showed DiStefano had paid no wages at all in 2019 or 2020, and was collecting personal unemployment benefits that were being deposited in the same bank account, the affidavit stated.
DiStefano was also the beneficiary of two other PPP loans granted in July to separate companies associated with his business, West Coast POS and National POS, according to the court document.
Both of those loans, which were approved days apart, used similarly overstated payroll and revenue figures, and were completed and electronically signed using a computer matching the IP address in DiStefano’s Addison home, the affidavit stated.
About $1.2 million from the West Coast POS and National POS loans were later transferred directly to DiStefano’s business account, the affidavit stated.
One of those transfers occurred on July 30, 2020, the same day DiStefano bought the Lamborghini for $195,000 from the Bentley Gold Coast dealership on Rush Street, charging $100,000 to his corporate credit card and forking over a cashier’s check for $95,000, the affidavit said.
The next day, DiStefano allegedly purchased the Maserati, which he’d been leasing since 2017, directly from the bank with a $41,000 cashier’s check, according to the FBI.
DiStefano’s LinkedIn profile stated he’s a graduate of Addison Trail High School and has been president of DiStefano Enterprises since 2014. The company’s web site says its goal is to “simplify the connections that make commerce possible.”
“Every day, merchants, financial institutions and governments around the world rely on DiStefano Enterprises to deliver the simple yet sophisticated solutions that help our customers thrive in the changing world of commerce and make the most of every transaction,” the site says.