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Secret Service Recovers $286M in Stolen Pandemic Loans

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FILE - Attorney General Merrick Garland, looks at federal prosecutor Kevin Chambers, right, after appointing him to be the Justice Department's chief pandemic fraud prosecutor, during a meeting of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Fraud Enforcement Task Force at the Justice Department, March 10, 2022 in Washington. The U.S. Secret Service recovered $286 million in fraudulently obtained pandemic funds to the Small Business Administration, Friday, Aug. 26. (Kevin Lamarque/Pool Photo via AP, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Secret Service said Friday that it has recovered $286 million in fraudulently obtained pandemic loans and is returning the money to the Small Business Administration.

The Secret Service said an investigation initiated by its Orlando office found that alleged conspirators submitted Economic Injury Disaster Loan applications by using fake or stolen employment and personal information and used an online bank, Green Dot, to conceal and move their criminal proceeds.

The agency worked with Green Dot to identify roughly 15,000 accounts and seize $286 million connected to the accounts.

“This forfeiture effort and those to come are a direct and necessary response to the unprecedented size and scope of pandemic relief fraud,” said Kevin Chambers, director for COVID-19 fraud enforcement at the Justice Department.

Billions have been fraudulently claimed through various pandemic relief programs — including Paycheck Protection Program loans, unemployment insurance and others that were rolled out in the midst of the worldwide pandemic that shutdown global economies for months.

In March, the Government Accountability Office reported that while agencies were able to distribute COVID-19 relief funds quickly, “the tradeoff was that they did not have systems in place to prevent and identify payment errors and fraud” due in part to “financial management weaknesses.”

As a result, the GAO has recommended several measures for agencies to prevent pandemic program fraud in the future, including better reporting on their fraud risk management efforts.

Since 2020, the Secret Service initiated more than 3,850 pandemic related fraud investigations, seized over $1.4 billion in fraudulently obtained funds and helped to return $2.3 billion to state unemployment insurance programs.

The latest seizure included a collaboration of efforts between Secret Service, the SBA’s Inspector General, DOJ and other offices.

Hannibal “Mike” Ware, the Small Business Administration’s inspector general, said the joint investigations will continue “to ensure that taxpayer dollars obtained through fraudulent means will be returned to taxpayers and fraudsters involved face justice.”

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Tim Giuliani Elected to International Chamber of Commerce General Council

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Orlando, Fla. – Orlando Economic Partnership (the Partnership) President and CEO Tim Giuliani has been elected to the World Chambers Federation (WCF) of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) General Council. Representing more than 1,400 chambers from around the world, this year’s Council is comprised of one of the most diverse cadres of chamber leaders in its history, reflecting WCF’s commitment to advancing regional and gender diversity.

“This is much more than simply a professional honor,” said Giuliani. “This recognition further reinforces Orlando’s reputation as a global leader in economic development and highlights how our mission of advancing Broad-based Prosperity® aligns with WCF’s objective to elevate and empower businesses to be leading players in tackling our most pressing issues. I look forward to sharing our region’s best practices and vision for inclusive growth with my fellow members to show how we all can drive an impactful future for communities everywhere.”

ICC is the institutional representative of more than 45 million companies in over 100 countries with a mission to enable business to secure peace, prosperity, and opportunity for all and ensure business work for everyone, every day, everywhere. Through a unique mix of advocacy, solutions and standard setting, the organization promotes international trade, responsible business conduct and a global approach to regulation in addition to providing market-leading dispute resolution services. Its members include many of the world’s leading companies, SMEs, business associations and local chambers of commerce.

The Partnership has a long history of supporting the Orlando region’s business community. Through its business development efforts, the Partnership works to market the Orlando region as an ideal location for successful and innovative businesses to scale and success while also growing the diversity of the regional economy by providing complimentary services to expanding businesses to achieve a soft and welcoming landing in the business community. The Partnership’s programs and initiatives support our region’s existing businesses by driving regional investment, catalyzing regional leadership and helping to advance diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).

In collaboration with ICC, the WCF provides all the tools to support Chambers and MSMEs, connecting chambers worldwide to develop and reinforce our chamber community. Chamber leaders from local, regional, national and transnational chambers were eligible to run for the General Council, each member serving a three-year term with the opportunity to run twice. The final composition of the Council sees representation from all parts of membership worldwide. It includes nine representatives from the Americas, thirteen from the Africa and Middle East region, nine from Asia-Pacific and twelve from Europe.

“We are proud of the level of enthusiasm and support of our members who showed interest in serving on the ICC WCF General Council,” said WCF Chairman Nicolás Uribe. “We have successfully brought together one of the most diverse and inclusive Councils in our long history, and I look forward to working with all members to strengthen the WCF and the wider chamber community.”

The new members of the WCF Executive Council are as follows:

Mr Tim Giuliani, President and CEO, Orlando Economic Partnership (USA)

Mr Marcelo Elizondo, Director – prosecretary, Argentina Chamber of Commerce and Services (Argentina)

Mr Andrew McKellar, CEO, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Australia)

Mr Olivier Willocx, Chief Executive Officer, Brussels Enterprises Commerce and Industry (Belgium)

Mrs Maria Teresa Bustamante, President, FIESC Foreign Chamber of Commerce (Brazil)

Mrs Min Yu, General Director, ICC China Secretariat, China Chamber of International Commerce (China)

Mrs Rim Siam, President of Economic Business Women Council, Alexandria Chamber of Commerce (Egypt)

Mr Giorgi Pertaia, President, The Georgian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Georgia)

Mr Volker Treier, Chief Executive of Foreign Trade and Member of the Executive Board, Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (Germany)

Mr Mohammed Khazaee Torshizi, Senior Advisor to President, Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines & Agriculture (Iran)

Mr Kazuo Nishitani, Executive Director, Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Japan)

Mr Seong Woo Lee, Vice President, Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Korea)

Mr Trajan Angeloski, President, Macedonian Chambers of Commerce (Macedonia)

Mrs Tamader Al Thani, Director of International Relations and Chamber Affairs, Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Qatar)

Mr Mihai Daraban, President, Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Romania (Romania)

Mr José Luis Bonet, President, Spain Chamber of Commerce (Spain)

Mr Vincent Subilia, Director General, Geneva Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Services (Switzerland)

Mr Izzet Volkan, Chairman of the Board, Corlu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Turkey)

Mr Gennadiy Chyzhykov, President, The Ukrainian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Ukraine)

Mrs Shevaun Haviland, Director General, British Chambers of Commerce (United Kingdom)

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Orlando International Airport Pushing 50 Million Passenger Mark, Again

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ORLANDO, FL. – With a strong start to the holiday travel season in November, Orlando International Airport (MCO) came dramatically close to breaking the 50 million passenger barrier, again. Previously, MCO shattered the mark before the pandemic and it was not predicted to fully rebound again until at least 2025.

“We have far exceeded anyone’s expectations for traffic growth at Orlando International Airport,” says Kevin Thibault, Chief Executive Officer of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority. “On a rolling 12-month basis, MCO welcomed 49.7 million passengers as of November. If you break that down even further, it is about two days-worth of traffic shy of 50 million.”

For the month of November, MCO was bolstered once again by robust international traffic, which climbed over 85 percent. Those numbers were also affected by the resumption of service by Sunwing to Toronto. Another key factor, MCO recorded the third-lowest domestic air fares in the country from July through September for the top 50 U.S. airports.

Rolling 12-month Traffic Statistics:

  • International traffic is up by triple digits with a 225 percent increase over the same 12-month period in 2021 with 5,352,825 total international passengers.
  • Domestic traffic climbed 21.04 percent year-over-year to 44,350,955 passengers at MCO.
  • Combined, overall traffic at MCO for the 12-month rolling total was up 29.82 percent to 49,703,780 passengers.

November 2022 Traffic Statistics:

  • International traffic climbed 85.35 percent with a total of 466,169 international arrivals and departures.
  • Domestic passenger traffic was up 3.83 percent on 3,772,635 total travelers for the month.
  • Combined, traffic was up 9.11 percent with a grand total of 4,238,804 arrivals and departures at MCO.

Traffic Summary Report

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Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA) Announces 2023 Board of Directors Executive Committee

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FRLA's 2023 Board Chair John Horne, owner of Anna Maria Oyster Bars, Bradenton and Cafe L'Europe, Sarasota. Photo: FRLA.

TALLAHASSEE (FNN) – Today, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA) announced the installation of its 2023 Board of Directors Executive Committee, which includes veteran industry leaders with nearly 230 years of combined experience in hospitality. As Florida’s premier non-profit hospitality trade association, FRLA has provided unmatched service to the industry and its members for more than 75 years. The mission of FRLA is to protect, educate, and promote Florida’s hospitality industry – a nearly $112 billion industry with more than one million employees.

 

FRLA’s 2023 Board of Directors Executive Committee is comprised of the following:

Chair: John Horne, Owner of Anna Maria Oyster Bars, Bradenton region, and Café L’Europe, Sarasota

Vice Chair: Roger Amidon, General Manager for Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa

Secretary/Treasurer and Restaurant Director: Nick Sarra, Chief Operating Officer, Saltwater Restaurants, Inc., Destin

Lodging Director: Barbara Bowden, Area Managing Director for Loews Hotels at Universal Orlando

Restaurant Director: Henry Delgado, Managing Partner, Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group, Miami Beach

Lodging Director: Lisa Lombardo, Chief Culture and Strategy Officer, HDG Hotels, Ocala

Immediate Past Chair: Olivia Hoblit, Regional Manager for Innisfree Hotels, Amelia Island

“The 2023 FRLA Board of Directors Executive Committee is one of our strongest ever,” said Carol Dover, President and CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA). “With more than two centuries’ worth of combined experience, we value the wisdom and guidance of these industry icons as we work to build on our industry’s incredible growth this year. In the face of uncertain economic times, historic food prices, and labor challenges, we need dedicated and passionate industry leaders who are innovative thinkers to get engaged. John Horne is a true visionary with such a warm and big personality who thrives in this wonderful ‘people business’ we all love, and we are thrilled to have him as our new Chair.”

“It’s an incredible honor to lead the FRLA Board of Directors, and I am looking forward to an outstanding year,” said John Horne, Board Chair for the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA). “Hospitality is the greatest industry in Florida, and it is our collective priority to keep it that way through our statewide and federal advocacy, as well as our commitment to make a difference in our local communities. We’re in the business of helping our guests have memorable experiences and ensuring that Florida remains the greatest place to live, work, and have FUN!”

 

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