New York adventure park owner pleads guilty to pilfering $3M in federal coronavirus aid
CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. (AP) — The owner of a New York adventure park on Long Island admitted Thursday that he fraudulently obtained more than $3 million in federal coronavirus aid and spent it on himself, including buying a home on the Massachusetts island of Nantucket.
Donald Finley pleaded guilty to disaster relief fraud and wire fraud during a federal court hearing in Central Islip. Finley’s plea agreement calls for him to pay more than $3.2 million in restitution and a fine of up to $1.25 million. He also faces up to 30 years in prison but is not expected to get the maximum.
Sentencing was scheduled for Nov. 8.
“This office will continue investigating and prosecuting those, like the defendant, who shamelessly steal from government programs that were intended for struggling small businesses and families during the pandemic,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said in a statement.
Messages seeking comment were left for Finley’s lawyer, Christopher Ferguson, and at an email address and phone number listed for Finley Thursday evening.
“I am deeply remorseful for my conduct,” Finley said in court, according to a report by Newsday.
Finley, 61, of Locust Valley, New York, owns the Bayville Adventure Park on Long Island’s north shore, which features a pirate-themed miniature golf course, bumper boats, an arcade and other attractions. He also was the owner of a now-defunct Jekyll & Hyde theme restaurant in Manhattan.
Prosecutors said Finley submitted bogus applications for nearly 30 small business loans under the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program in 2020 and 2021, receiving about $3.2 million for businesses he controlled.
Instead of spending the money on pandemic-related expenses, Finley diverted it for personal use, including the purchase of the Nantucket home in February 2021, prosecutors said.