U.S. charges former Olympic figure skater in COVID-19 small business fraud

A former Slovenian figure skater who competed in the 1992 Winter Olympics was charged in Manhattan with fraudulently procuring $ 1.6 million to help small U.S. businesses cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.

US prosecutors on Tuesday charged Luka Klasinc, 48, with bank fraud and aggravated identity theft related to his alleged use of forged documents. The fraud count carries a maximum prison sentence of 30 years.

A defense attorney representing Klasinc did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Prosecutors said Klasinc owns BOB77 LLC, which has hosted ice cream-themed amusement park events in places like Warsaw, Poland; Dusseldorf, Germany; and Ljubljana, Slovenia.

According to court records, BOB77 received $ 1.6 million in “economic disaster loans” from the US Small Business Administration (SBA) from July to September 2020 when there were also many transfers from its accounts to international recipients.

After Klasinc’s bank frozen accounts on suspicion of fraud, Klasinc allegedly provided a forged letter on the SBA’s letterhead to “verify” the legitimacy of the funds.

Klasinc flew in from Istanbul on May 31 and visited the bank three times to gain access to the funds, but was refused and the bank alerted law enforcement officials, prosecutors said.

The bank returned $ 848,383 from the BOB77 accounts to the SBA, prosecutors added.

Klasinc was arrested on Monday when prosecutors said he should return to Istanbul.

“At a time when US small businesses were struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic, Klasinc thought he might cheat his way into easy money,” US attorney Audrey Strauss said in a Manhattan statement. “His plans have been put on hold.”

Klasinc took part in the Olympic Games in Albertville, France, in the men’s individual figure skating, but did not reach the freestyle.

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