One-half of a successful musical duo is heading to federal prison after a U.S. District Court judge handed down a 41-month sentence in connection with a massive fraud, which prosecutors say included two of his sons, to bilk taxpayers and banks out of millions in pandemic relief funds.
Ramiro Da Rosa Mendes, 61, and his brother released 40 world albums as the Mendes Brothers, music that celebrates their native Cape Verde. He and his brother, Joao, began playing together when the two were growing up in Brockton, Massachusetts, and the act became successful enough that Ramiro moved from that hardscrabble city of new migrants to a Beverly Hills luxury apartment.
Prosecutors announced this week that Mendes, who describes himself as an “artist, author, musician, humanitarian, and Grammy voter” on social media, had claimed to own “numerous fake businesses purportedly based in Beverly Hills.” These companies did not exist prior to the pandemic, listed no employees, yet were used in obtaining disaster relief funds and loans. A total of $6.7 million in aid was sought via applications made by these entities. Roughly $2.3 million was received before Mendes was caught.
In April 2020, Mendes and two of his sons, Ammon Jose de Pina Mendes, 27, and Mateus Pina Mendes, 34, launched their five-month scheme to create the bogus entities to cash in on the relief effort as Covid-19 tore across the country, crippling small businesses. The phony companies the father and sons concocted include One Wilshire Enterprises, Professional Music Services, and MB Property Management Group, LLC. The patriarch also created fake real estate services companies, including Ramiro Mendes Real Estate Services, Real Estate Services, and Real Estate Investments, also listed as located in Beverly Hills and Massachusetts, as well as other businesses registered in Wyoming.
The money, prosecutors say, was used ultimately for personal purchases and investments in bitcoin as the cryptocurrency climbed to dizzying new heights that year.
For his role in the scheme, Ammon Mendes was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $222,225 in restitution, prosecutors said. His brother is slated to be sentenced in January.
The sentencing of the father and son comes weeks after a Tennessee rapper known as “Nuke Bizzle” was ordered to spend 77 months in prison by an L.A. federal judge after he self-snitched that he’d stolen $700,000 from California taxpayers in a YouTube music video called “EDD.” The 33-year-old rapper, whose real name is Fontrell Antonio Baines, will also be heading to federal prison.
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