Monday, June 14, 2021

Former Olympian Luka Klasinc charged in $1.5M COVID relief scam

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A former Olympic figure skater for Slovenia defrauded the US out of more than $1.5 million intended for struggling businesses during the coronavirus pandemic, federal prosecutors alleged.

Luka Klasinc, a 48-year-old Slovenian national who competed in the 1992 men’s single event in Albertville, France, was arrested Monday on bank fraud and aggravated identity theft charges for allegedly using falsified documents to obtain $1,595,800 in aid for his event management company.

The company, BOB77, operates “ice amusement parks” in Poland, Germany and Slovenia.

“As alleged, at a time when US small businesses were struggling because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Klasinc thought he could scam his way to easy money,” Manhattan US Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a statement Tuesday.

“As alleged, Klasinc used false documents to try and obtain over a million dollars in funds intended to help hard-working Americans, but thanks to the diligence of the FBI, his plans have been put on ice.”

A criminal complaint states Klasinc opened three accounts with an international bank in 2019.

Those accounts received more than $1.5 million in fraudulent US Small Business Administration Economic Injury Disaster Loans, federal prosecutors claim.

torch olympics
Klasinc competed in the 1992 men’s single figure skating event in France.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Several wire transfers from the BOB77 accounts were also made to international beneficiaries during the same span between last July and September, according to the 10-page complaint.

The unnamed international bank froze the funds in September and contacted Klasinc for additional information, the complaint states.

Federal prosecutors allege he provided a false document in October claiming to be from the U.S. Small Business Administration to “verify” that $1,999,000 was payable to Klasinc as “payment for property investment only” and not as a loan.

“Based on my conversation with the SBA employee, I have learned that the SBA did not issue the fraudulent SBA letter, nor did the SBA employee affix his signature or give his permission for his signature to be affixed to the fraudulent SBA letter,” FBI agent Ryan Redel wrote in the complaint.

The international bank closed the BOB77 accounts in December due to suspicious activity.

olympics rings
The Slovenian national allegedly using falsified documents to obtain $1,595,800 in aid for his event management company.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Klasinc later flew to the US from Istanbul in May and visited the bank’s branch in New York three times to inquire about the funds, prompting employees to alert law enforcement, federal prosecutors said.

The former Olympian then booked a flight from Newark, New Jersey, to Istanbul on Monday after being denied access, according to the complaint.

An attorney for Klasinc, who finished in 26th place at the Albertville Olympics, did not return a request for comment Tuesday, NBC News reported.

He was ordered detained by a judge due to risk of flight during his initial court appearance, according to Law360.com.



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