A former district director of the Colorado Small Business Administration office tried to use his work connections to help a friend with a loan that was guaranteed by the federal agency, said a complaint filed on Friday by the U.S. attorney general.
Gregorio Lopez, who served as SBA district director from 2008 to 2014, is accused of violating conflict of interest restrictions for former federal employees, according to a complaint from Jason Dunn, the U.S. attorney for Colorado. Lopez, who lives in Elizabeth, could face fines of up to $ 157,000.
During his tenure as district director, Lopez was involved in matters relating to a $ 1.7 million loan to Morreale Hotels LLC to renovate a building on 101 Broadway in Denver. The loan from a regional business development agency was guaranteed by the SBA.
In 2012, Samuel Jesse Morreale's project suffered setbacks, including the building housing the El Diablo and Sketch Food & Wine restaurants on Broadway, which was declared unsafe. According to officials, he applied for bankruptcy protection.
Morreale turned to Lopez for help in resolving his debts, and Lopez "participated personally and to a significant extent in various ways," including talking to other lenders involved and testifying about Morreal's bankruptcy, the US said Law firm.
The complaint said that after leaving the SBA, Lopez spoke to agency officials on behalf of Morreale. He turned to SBA officials for help in getting the agency's approval of Morreal's plan to sell the agency's notes secured by the escrow on the Broadway property, the US law firm said.
The SBA has not approved the sale. The property was auctioned in December 2015 as part of the bankruptcy proceedings.