Man gets two years in prison for using Covid-19 relief funds to start alpaca farm in Vermont

Man gets two years in prison for using Covid-19 relief funds to start alpaca farm in Vermont
A gray and white alpaca in a field.
A Grafton man has been accused of using pandemic relief funds for personal expenses, including starting an alpaca farm. Photo by JackieLou DL/Pixabay

A former Massachusetts pizzeria owner has been sentenced to two years in federal prison for fraudulently using more than $600,000 in pandemic relief loans for personal expenditures, including founding an alpaca farm in Vermont.

Dana L. McIntyre, 59, now living in Grafton, Vermont, and previously of Beverly and Essex, Massachusetts, was sentenced Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Boston.

Judge Denise J. Casper ordered McIntyre to serve two years in prison and three years of supervised release, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts. The judge also ordered McIntyre to pay $679,156 in restitution.

McIntyre’s attorney argued for a lesser sentence of one year, court records show. He had earlier pleaded guilty in April to four counts of wire fraud and three counts of money laundering.

According to federal prosecutors, in March 2020, at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, McIntyre used the names of two of his adult children to file false applications to the U.S. Small Business Administration for loans for businesses that did not exist.

Prosecutors also charged McIntyre with misrepresenting information about a pizza shop he owned in Beverly, Massachusetts, in a federal Paycheck Protection Program loan application in April 2020, claiming to have almost 50 employees when there were actually fewer than 10.

The Paycheck Protection Program was created by Congress to help businesses retain employees during the pandemic.

Charging documents stated that McIntyre sold the Rasta Pasta Pizzeria after receiving the $660,000 loan. He then used the money to buy the farm in Vermont and eight alpacas, the court records show.

McIntyre also used the funds for other personal expenses, including buying two vehicles and airtime for a radio show focused on cryptocurrency, according to court documents.

Attempts to contact McIntyre by phone and email on Thursday were not successful.

The New York Times, in a story published Wednesday, reported that McIntyre opened the Houghtonville Farm in 2021, with its website stating that it offered people the chance to hand-feed and stroll with the animals at the property.

McIntyre told the New York Times that when he first bought the property he did not intend to turn it into a farm, saying he bought two alpacas as “lawn ornaments” but decided after the animals attracted attention to start up a business.

“It wasn’t this mastermind program to steal money from the government and go up and start this alpaca farm,” he told the New York Times. “No, it unfolded and it took on its own life form.”

Read the story on VTDigger here: Man gets two years in prison for using Covid-19 relief funds to start alpaca farm in Vermont.