Fraudsters Go Where The (COVID-19) Money Is


Last June, eight guys in Brooklyn put their heads together, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, and came up with a scheme to steal strangers’ identities and take what didn’t belong to them.

Just a couple months before that—in the earliest days of the COVID-19 scare—Congress passed a $2.2 trillion bill called the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. The money was supposed to go to the millions of isolated Americans who had their paychecks interrupted during the pandemic.

The mooks in Brooklyn had other plans.

This gang of eight, ranging in age from 18 to 25, submitted some $2 million worth of fake unemployment claims for CARES Act assistance. And they got away with it for nearly a year, according to the feds. Several of these criminals stupidly posted online photos of themselves flashing stacks of money. Others were caught on ATM cameras withdrawing their free cash. Busted!

The more Uncle Sam giveth, the more criminals taketh away.

And it wasn’t just the Brooklyn gang. Besides extra money for bigger unemployment checks, Congress allocated nearly $350 billion for Small Business Administration loans to be doled out by vendors at some 3,800 financial institutions.

Now we find out that just one of those lenders, an online firm called Kabbage, OK’d more than $7 million to go to fake companies, mostly nonexistent farms. Speed in disbursement was the name of the game, and apparently, vetting applications was lax. Many entities seeking loans from Kabbage seemed fishy. Farms and cattle ranches on a New Jersey sandbar? An orange grove in Minnesota? A potato field in ritzy Palm Beach, Florida? All were phony-baloney.

The SBA’s inspector general now estimates that close to 100,000 loans went to businesses that were ineligible or got more cash than they should have. By late March 2021, the DOJ had brought criminal fraud charges against 474 people who sought to rake in a collective $570 million.

It’s great that the feds caught up with these cheaters, but there must have been a better way to administer this program from the get-go, right? Simply relying on after-the-fact prosecution is like trying to chase the horse after it bolts through the open barn door.

An acquaintance tells me he was expecting a small relief payment on a debit card but it never arrived. His wife called to trace it, but the automated system required her to punch in the number on the card—which, again, they never received. A typical government Catch-22. They ultimately gave up and are still wondering who got their $318 debit card. – READ MORE

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