In an astonishing turn of events, Dana McIntyre, a 59-year-old former pizzeria owner from Massachusetts, was sentenced to two years in prison for misusing more than $660,000 in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds. Instead of using the money to sustain his struggling business amid the COVID-19 pandemic, McIntyre committed wire fraud and money laundering to buy an alpaca farm in Vermont.

The Paycheck Protection Program was established as a lifeline for small businesses impacted by the pandemic. The intent was to provide necessary financial support to help businesses maintain their workforce and operations. But, as demonstrated by McIntyre, the system wasn’t foolproof and became a target for fraudulent activities.

In 2020, prosecutors say McIntyre submitted a fraudulent PPP loan application. He inflated the number of employees and the payroll expenses of his pizzeria. Not stopping there, McIntyre even falsified tax forms to maximize the loan amount. Upon securing the loan, he sold his pizzeria and embarked on a completely different venture—alpaca farming.

Why alpacas, you might ask? That remains a mystery. But according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Boston, McIntyre didn’t just stop at acquiring the farm and eight alpacas. He also purchased two vehicles and paid for airtime on a cryptocurrency-themed radio show he hosted.

But as the saying goes, “crime doesn’t pay.” McIntyre was arrested in 2021, and during his sentencing, he was ordered to pay back the stolen funds. His legal team tried to argue that McIntyre was a single father of two whose pizzeria was barely breaking even before the pandemic. Nonetheless, the court held that he capitalized on a national crisis for personal gain, a move that undermines the entire purpose of relief funds meant to assist struggling businesses during unprecedented times.

This case serves as a cautionary tale about the vulnerabilities within relief programs like the PPP and the need for stricter oversight. For every Dana McIntyre that gets caught, how many others are taking advantage of the system? As we continue to navigate the challenges of the pandemic, it becomes even more crucial to ensure the integrity of such aid programs.

So the next time you hear about a bizarre story like McIntyre’s, remember that it’s not just an outlandish headline. It’s a serious violation that impacts the distribution of limited resources during a national emergency, affecting countless innocent businesses and individuals.