BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Since the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) launched to help businesses pay their employees to prevent great losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some people have of course tried to exploit the program and defraud the federal government of money.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) says as of Aug. 8, more than 5.2 million forgivable loans have been approved, at a total of more than $525 billion.
In less than six months, more than 50 people have been charged with allegedly committing fraud in connection with the program. The cases involve attempts to steal a total of more than $175 million from the program, with actual losses to the federal government totaling more than $70 million, the DOJ reports.
Investigators say those accused made false statements about things like how many people they employ, their average monthly revenue, and payroll figures. The DOJ says falsified tax records were submitted and in some cases, stolen personal information was also used in these attempts to defraud the PPP.
The DOJ says this ill-gotten money was in many cases used to buy luxury personal items like cars, homes, vacation trips, and jewelry.
“The PPP was developed to ease the pain of COVID-19 economic restraints on working Americans. The Department of Justice, and in particular my office here in the Middle District of Louisiana, is committed to investigating and prosecuting those who abuse the system for personal gain and will use every resource at our disposal to protect those federal dollars and the businesses they are intended to help. I urge anyone who believes he or she is a victim of this type of fraud to report it to the National Center for Disaster Fraud," said US Attorney Brandon Fremin.
Those who suspect PPP fraud or may have been a victim of such fraud should contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline at 866-720-5721. The line is staffed 24/7. Complaints can also be filed online here.
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