(AmericanProsperity.com) – COVID-19 hit the world hard. Leading to mass economic fallout in many regions, including the United States, where the economy took a massive hit. The federal government spent $6 trillion to help keep the economy moving.
The stimulus packages were a way for many people to pay their bills or stock up on food and other supplies. Much of the relief fund went toward small businesses struggling to stay open. However, some used the extra money for non-essential items and lavish lifestyles. Now, the Secret Service is looking into reports of $100 billion in fraud.
Temptation can lead good people to do bad things. One of the biggest temptations a person can come across is money. Perhaps that’s what happened to the people the US government is currently investigating.
From everyday people and business owners to a former NFL player, people from all walks of life scammed taxpayers. Several agencies, including the Secret Service, federal prosecutors, and groups of investigators from several inspector general offices, are working the massive web of fraud. When $100 billion worth of relief funds is essentially stolen, the government isn’t going to take the issue lightly.
Authorities caught a couple in Michigan filing fake COVID unemployment claims, estimated to be around $2.5 million. Johnny Richardson, 25, and Micahia Taylor, 27, are both unemployed, but somehow both lived lives of luxury as portrayed by their social media pages.
It turns out the two filed bogus claims, and with the help of a friend in the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency, the couple cashed out, enabling them to expand their lifestyle and buy brand new Mercedes-Benz cars worth nearly $130,000. The couple pleaded guilty, and their sentence hearing was scheduled for April 13, when they could face up to two decades in federal prison.
A 29-year-old from Miami, David T. Hines, is one of the more infamous cases of relief fund fraud. Hines claimed he employed hundreds of people across multiple companies and that he needed $13 million to continue issuing them checks. He obtained $4 million through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans designed for small businesses.
Hines decided to buy himself a Lamborghini Huracan, worth around $318,000. Prosecutors determined that his monthly inflow and outflow was about $200,000, noting Hines only had around 12 employees. Hines pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in February 2021. The court sentenced him to six years in prison and forced him to hand over the high-end luxury car.
One would think that being a former professional football player for the New York Jets would be enough. Nevertheless, it wasn’t for Joshua Bellemy, a former wide receiver, and he fraudulently filed for $1.2 million in PPP loans.
The former football player claimed the funds were for his company, Drip Entertainment LLC, but instead used the funds to buy jewelry and pay for a trip to Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. He also pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge to commit fraud, earning him a three-year, one-month sentence in federal prison.
Not So Murder Mystery
In a bizarre case of relief fund fraud, a woman by the name of Jasmine Martinez used $15,000 to pay for a hitman. Her target was La’Shonte Jones, a Transportation Security Administration agent, who Martinez claims stole her boyfriend. She said the loan was for her one-person salon, though authorities are unsure if she ever owned a business.
The court charged the 33-year-old with first-degree murder. In addition, the two people who allegedly connected Martinez to the hitman are also facing murder charges, though they deny they were involved in any way.
On the Hunt
The Secret Service named Roy Dotson, Assistant Special Agent in Charge in Jacksonville, to be the National Pandemic Fraud Recovery Coordinator. Dotson’s job is to coordinate the efforts of multiple investigations concerning fraudulent relief claims. The new coordinator asserted that the Secret Service currently has 900 active investigations geared explicitly toward pandemic relief funds.
Investigators noted that much of the fraud occurred with the PPP loans, but they admitted there were several unemployment scams as well. Dotson said the Secret Service is enthusiastic about recovering anything they can from the criminals who stole from state and federal programs.
~ Here’s to Your Prosperity!
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