When Steven Lupo attacked Rep. Lee Zeldin and his wife, Diana, online earlier this week, he may have unwittingly done the couple a large favor. Zeldin is, of course, the front-runner for the 2022 Republican nomination for governor.
Lupo, a Shirley resident who is president of the William Floyd Democratic Club, posted an accusation on Facebook: Diana Zeldin, under the maiden name "Gidish," had sought and received a $20,208 loan from the Payroll Protection Program established to keep people afloat during the pandemic.
Lupo posted the accusation, along with a picture of a summary of the application and some fairly harsh rhetoric, on his Facebook page and the anti-Lee activist page "Let’s Visit Lee Zeldin," which has about 3,500 followers.
Zeldin said he’d been sent a link to the information by a staffer and begun investigating a few days before that.
According to a study from the University of Texas at Austin, released in August, as many as 15% of the 11.8 million PPP loans granted have at least one indication of potential fraud, putting loans of about $76 billion, many of which have been forgiven, in question.
"We are in the process of finding out what happened but my understanding is that someone did use my wife’s name and social security number and our address to get the money," Zeldin said. "We have contacted the Small Business Administration and filed a police report and sent them the report and a picture of her driver’s license," Zeldin said. "That’s what we were told we needed to do to get the process started."
In a phone interview Friday Lupo said he is not great with computer research, but a party activist who is more savvy had been combing through records and found this seemingly smoking gun.
As far as impact, the accusation does not seem to have surfaced much beyond Lupo’s page and "Let’s Visit Lee Zeldin." There, ferociously anti-Zeldin posters, including some whose names are part of the political and activist scene, took the accusation as gospel and piled on.
Lupo said he’ll pull down the posts, now that he knows.
And Zeldin said a review of his wife’s credit check currently shows no other false accounts or fabricated loans.