JOLIET, Ill. (AP) — More than two dozen people have been charged in Illinois with fraudulently obtaining pandemic relief money, with authorities alleging some of them were behind bars when ‘they used their relief money to post bail and get out of jail.
Joliet Police Chief William Evans said Wednesday that 25 people were part of the alleged fraud scheme to obtain Paycheck Protection Program checks without operating real businesses.
Fifteen of the defendants had been arrested on Wednesday and arrest warrants were pending for 10 others. They all face charges of wire fraud, theft and loan fraud, officials said.
Evans said each fraudulently obtained loan cost between $19,000 and $20,000, with the fraud costing taxpayers more than $500,000.
Investigators found that some of the defendants were being held in Will County Jail in Joliet, a Chicago suburb, when they applied for and received loans under the pandemic program and then used the money to get away of prison in their cases of crime.
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Evans said some of the defendants were in police custody and used jail phones “to complete the fraudulent PPP loan process.”
“Some of the targets got out of their criminal cases within days of receiving their fraudulent PPP loan,” he said at a press conference on Wednesday.
Joliet Police Detective James Kilgore said investigators had obtained bank statements and it “appeared some of these people had in fact used the money to link up with a felony case.”
A message was left with Joliet police on Thursday by The Associated Press requesting additional information about the allegations.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General and the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office also participated in the investigation.
Emergency loans to small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic have been added last year to a list of government programs considered to be at high risk of waste, fraud or mismanagement.
In August, the The US Secret Service said he had recovered $286 million in fraudulently obtained pandemic loans and was returning the money to the Small Business Administration.
“It’s like the pandemic. It’s absolutely everywhere too,” Sean Fitzgerald, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security, said at Wednesday’s press conference in Joliet.
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