The South District of Florida is taking aggressive measures to protect its tax base from being defrauded out of Covid relief funds. A year ago, the Legislature passed the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security), which allocated $2.2 trillion to Americans suffering from the effects of the Covid pandemic. These funds were intended to aid struggling businesses and individuals who qualified for financial assistance. Since then, however, the South District of Florida has charged dozens of fraud scheme cases in which individuals have been accused of attempting to ascertain Covid relief funds through falsified documents or identity theft. The District has charged 38 cases of such activity since the CARES Act was passed and is leading the nation in Covid relief fraud prosecutions.
The allegations have covered three main avenues of illicit Covid fund divestment including activity attempting to take advantage of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL), and Unemployment Insurance (UI), all without proper qualification. The PPP and the EIDL were intended to help struggling businesses weather out the pandemic. Fraud on this front included an array of criminal behavior from overstating payroll expense amounts in order to procure larger loans to applying for aid for companies that had no actual business activity. Illegal behavior taking advantage of UI, which was created to support the unemployed, consisted of identity theft.
All of these crimes have been charged by the South District of Florida against fraudsters over the past year. In fact, there have been 18 cases in the 30 days before March 26, 2021. These prosecutions included mostly cases of wire and bank fraud, money laundering, falsified documents and applications, and violations of Title 18, Section 371. There were also alleged conspiracies and organized criminal elements to many of these charges, all of them involving the illicit appropriation of Covid-19 relief benefits. All together, these charges involved over $75 million in fraud scheme money.
The United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, the Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, the Miami Acting Special Agent in Charge of IRS Criminal Investigation, SBA OIG’s Eastern Region Special Agent in Charge, Miami FBI Special Agent in Charge, Miami U.S. Postal Inspection Service Acting Inspector in Charge, and a range of other officials all issued statements condemning the criminal behavior and assuring the citizens of South Florida that the parties responsible for the illegal appropriation of Covid relief funds will be held accountable.