IRS workers used COVID-19 relief funds for luxury cars and trips to Las Vegas: Justice Department

Five former and current IRS employees have been charged with schemes to defraud COVID-19 relief measures such as the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and loans, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ). in the event of an economic disaster.

Both programs were federal stimulus initiatives authorized under the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act. Court documents show that the five defendants obtained funds under the two programs by submitting fraudulent loan applications asking for more than $1 million. The funds were used for personal purposes such as buying luxury goods, cars and travel, including trips to Las Vegas, the DOJ said in an Oct. 4 statement. Press release.

Brian Saulsberry, 46, of Memphis, Tennessee, received $171,400 in loans, using part of the funds to buy a Mercedes-Benz.

Courtney Quinshe Westmoreland, 38, of Cordova, Tennessee, secured $11,500 in loan funds, using them to buy luxury clothes and services like massages and manicures.

Fatina Hewitt, 35, of Olive Branch, Mississippi, received $28,900 in loans, spending the money on a trip to Las Vegas and Gucci clothes.

Roderick DeMarco White II, 27, of Memphis, Tennessee, secured $66,666 in funds, using them to buy personal items, including a Gucci satchel.

Tina Humes, 56, of Memphis, Tennessee, secured $123,612 in loan funds, using the money on jewelry and traveling to Las Vegas.

“This case demonstrates the boldness with which bad actors have taken advantage of federal programs intended to help those who have suffered the most from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Kevin Chambers, COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Director. .

Other COVID-19 Relief Fraud

Saulsberry, Westmoreland, Hewitt, White and Humes were charged with one or more counts of wire fraud, with each count carrying a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Saulsberry is also charged with two counts of money laundering, which come with a 10-year prison term as the maximum sentence.

Since the creation of the CARES Act, the Fraud Section of the DOJ Criminal Division has prosecuted more than 150 defendants in more than 95 criminal cases, seizing more than $75 million in cash, real estate and luxury items that these individuals obtained fraudulently from PPP. funds.

In September, Illinois police arrested 15 people who allegedly applied for fraudulent PPP loans and used the money to get out of jail.

A Sept. 21 memo released by the Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) says billions in unemployment benefits set aside by the federal government to help Americans who lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic instead went to criminals (pdf).

In February and June 2021, the OIG issued an alert indicating that more than $16 billion in unemployment benefits had been defrauded.

“Since then, the OIG has identified a $29.6 billion increase in potentially fraudulent payments across three of the previously analyzed domains, bringing the cumulative total for these high-risk domains to $45.6 billion. The total potential fraud covers the period from March 2020 to April 2022,” the memo states.

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Naveen Athrappully is a reporter who covers world affairs and events at The Epoch Times.

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