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Homebuilder fined, ordered to repay SBA $1 million

GULFPORT — A federal judge has ordered homebuilder Victor Planetta Sr. to pay $1 million in restitution and fined him $250,000 for making false statements to get a disaster-relief loan after Hurricane Katrina.

Planetta, owner of Planetta Custom Homes in Slidell, La., faced up to five years in prison for providing fraudulent information for a $1 million loan from the Small Business Administration.

He applied for the loan at a disaster-relief center in Pass Christian in 2005 while working on hurricane-damaged homes.

The Sun Herald reports (http://bit.ly/Lzar4I ) the 58-year-old Planetta accepted a plea agreement on a bill of information in November.

U.S. District Judge Louis Guirola Jr. on Tuesday placed Planetta on probation for three years and ordered the restitution and fine be paid with interest immediately.

Court papers show Planetta admitted he falsely told the SBA he and his business had never been involved in a bankruptcy, and he did not report he had a previous arrest on a criminal violation other than a minor motor-vehicle violation.

He had faced stiffer penalties from an indictment that charged him and his wife, Eileen, with related crimes. His wife agreed to enter a pre-trial diversion program that could result in the dismissal of her charges.

The government accused them of using about $400,000 of the loan money to buy a 43-foot yacht named Beyond Belief.

The government wanted Planetta to forfeit the yacht.

The issue of the yacht is being handled in a civil forfeiture proceeding, said John Dowdy, criminal division chief for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

District Attorney Walter Reed of Washington and St. Tammany Parishes in Louisiana was among several people who wrote letters asking the judge to show leniency for Planetta, and mentioning his charitable work.

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