The owner of a Massachusetts food truck business pleaded guilty Tuesday to filing fraudulent loan applications to obtain $1.5 million in federal pandemic relief funds, federal prosecutors said.
Loc Vo, 55, of Boston’s Brighton section, who was arrested last summer, pleaded guilty to wire fraud.
He faces up to 20 years in prison at a sentencing hearing set for May 3.
An attorney for Vo said he acknowledged his applications for pandemic relief contained false statements and will return about $600,000, the remains of the funds he received.
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Prosecutors say Vo owned Smart Gourmet LLC, a food truck business in Massachusetts, as well as a dormant Maryland company.
Between April 2020 and July 2021, Vo submitted loan applications on behalf of the businesses under three Small Business Administration pandemic relief programs, requesting about $1.5 million that was supposed to be used for rent, mortgage interest, payroll, and utilities, among other eligible expenses, prosecutors said.
Instead, Vo transferred most of the money to brokerage accounts in his name to invest in the stock market, purchasing shares in an electric car manufacturer and a biotechnology company, among others, authorities said.
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Vo’s lawyer said he will be able to show that more half of the other $1 million was used for the intended purposes including paying individuals who had worked in his food trucks until the COVID-19 pandemic made the business untenable.
“Until he was approached by the FBI in 2021 regarding the E-Trade and Robinhood transactions, Mr. Vo was actively trying to revive his food truck business,” his attorney, Thomas Kerner, said in email.
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He said Vo lost a significant portion of the pandemic relief funds on investments he made using his E-Trade and Robinhood accounts.