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Rapids Theatre owner charged with filing false COVID loan applications

A crowd watches a show inside the Rapids Theatre.

Two Niagara County men have been indicted on charges they fraudulently took advantage of COVID-19 financial assistance programs.

John Hutchins, 68, of Lewiston and Roberto Soliman, 39, of Niagara Falls are charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud for filing fraudulent loan applications under both the Economic Injury Disaster Loan and Paycheck Protection programs, which were established to provide emergency financial assistance in response to the pandemic through the CARES act.

The U.S. Attorney's Office said the applications were filed for five companies owned by Hutchins, including the Rapids Theatre in Niagara Falls, and one more owned by Soliman, for a grand total of nearly $740,000. They said almost $75,000 additional dollars were obtained through a false PPP loan.

Hutchins was also charged with making a false statement and Soliman with money laundering. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.