A Homestead couple was sentenced to four years in prison Wednesday and must also pay restitution for defrauding the government out of more than $1 million, the Miami Herald reports.
Sergio and Yaima Perez, 49 and 28, claimed to suffer losses in their nurseries after Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma and collected $1.3 million through the Hurricanes Nursery Program.
But according to the US State Attorney’s Office, the husband and wife team used multiple identities and filed numerous claims. From the money they received, $500,000 was wired to a company that Sergio formed in Costa Rica. Then, he also collected $700,000 in benefits from other farmers who used the program so that he could purchase land. The last $100,000 was transferred into the accounts of the couple’s Homestead nursery, Plantas Ornamentales, and pizza business, Perez Pizza & Bread.
The couple was found guilty of 11 charges in May.
Sergio was sentenced to 57 months in prison and Yaima was sentenced to 52 months, Local 10 reports. The couple also must pay $800,000 in restitution to the US Department of Agriculture.