FBI Arrests Husband and Wife Business Owners on Katrina-Related Fraud Charges

Daniel McMullen, Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the Jackson Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and Special Agent in Charge (SAC) Scott Dennis, U.S. Small Business Administration, Office of Inspector General - Southern Region (SBA-OIG), joined in announcing the following arrests:

VICTOR PLANETTA, age 57, and EILEEN PLANETTA, age 53, residents of Slidell, Louisiana, were arrested by Special Agents of the FBI, with assistance from officers of the Slidell, LA Police Department, at approximately 6:00 p.m., on April 26, 2011, pursuant to arrest warrants issued by the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi. Following their arrests, the PLANETTAs were transported to Mississippi and held in the Stone County, MS Jail, pending their initial court appearance.

The PLANETTAs were indicted by a grand jury in the Southern District of Mississippi on charges that they conspired to defraud the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) by making materially false and fraudulent claims to obtain disaster business loan funds. The indictment also charges that the husband and wife embezzled and converted to their own use money belonging to the SBA, namely, disaster loan proceeds in excess of $250,000. In furtherance of their scheme, the PLANETTAs are accused of having committed wire fraud.

The indictment states that, beginning in October of 2005, the PLANETTAs applied to the SBA for disaster business loan funds, which funds were to be used only to repair damages caused by Hurricane Katrina. In support of their loan applications, the PLANETTAs submitted fraudulent documentation to reflect the expenditure of the SBA funds on repairs to businesses and properties they owned in Mississippi and Louisiana, in order to conceal that they had converted some of the funds to their own use. Claiming that Hurricane Katrina caused damages to properties owned by their businesses, the PLANETTAs are accused of fraudulently applying for and receiving One Million Dollars in loans from the SBA. The indictment charges that the PLANETTAs used a portion of those misapplied SBA loan proceeds to purchase a large motor yacht.

VICTOR PLANETTA and EILEEN PLANETTA made their initial appearance before United States Chief Magistrate Judge John M. Roper on Wednesday, April 27, 2011. They were released on bond, pending their trial, which is scheduled for June 6, 2011.

This indictment is the result of a joint FBI/SBA investigation. The case is being prosecuted by the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Mississippi.

The public is reminded that indictments and arrests are not evidence of guilt and that all defendants in a criminal case are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.