A detail of the Internal Revenue Service building in the Federal Triangle section of Washington on April 27, 2020. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
By October 5, 2022 Updated: October 5, 2022. Media: The Epoch Times.
Five former and current employees of the IRS have been charged with schemes to defraud COVID-19 relief measures like the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loans, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ).
The two programs were federal stimulus initiatives authorized under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Court documents show that the five defendants obtained funds under the two programs by submitting fraudulent loan applications seeking more than $1 million. The funds were used for personal purposes like purchasing luxury goods, cars, and travel, including trips to Las Vegas, the DOJ announced in an Oct. 4 press release.
Brian Saulsberry, 46, of Memphis, Tennessee, received $171,400 in loans, using a portion of the funds to buy a Mercedes-Benz.
Courtney Quinshe Westmoreland, 38, of Cordova, Tennessee, obtained $11,500 in loan funds, using them to buy luxury clothing and services like massages and manicures.
Fatina Hewitt, 35, of Olive Branch, Mississippi, received $28,900 in loans, spending the money on a Las Vegas trip and Gucci clothing.
Roderick DeMarco White II, 27, of Memphis, Tennessee, obtained $66,666 in funds, using them to buy personal items including a Gucci satchel.
Tina Humes, 56, of Memphis, Tennessee, obtained $123,612 in loan funds, using the money on jewelry and traveling to Las Vegas.
“This matter demonstrates the brazenness with which bad actors have taken advantage of federal programs meant to help those who suffered most from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Kevin Chambers, director for COVID-19 fraud enforcement.
Other COVID-19 Relief Fraud
Saulsberry, Westmoreland, Hewitt, White, and Humes have been charged with one or multiple counts of wire fraud, with each count carrying a maximum penalty of up to 20 years in prison.
Saulsberry is also charged with two counts of money laundering, which comes with a 10-year prison term as a maximum penalty.
Since the inception of the CARES Act, the Fraud Section of the DOJ’s Criminal Division has prosecuted more than 150 defendants in over 95 criminal cases, seizing in excess of $75 million in cash, real estate, and luxury items these individuals had secured fraudulently from PPP funds.
In September, Illinois police arrested 15 people who allegedly applied for fraudulent PPP loans and used the money to bail themselves out of jail.
A Sept. 21 memo issued by the Department of Labor’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) states that billions in unemployment benefits set aside by the federal government to assist Americans who lost jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic instead went to criminals (pdf).
In February and June 2021, the OIG issued an alert stating that over $16 billion in unemployment benefits were defrauded.
“Since then, the OIG has identified an increase of $29.6 billion in potentially fraudulent payments within three of the areas previously analyzed, raising the cumulative total for these high-risk areas to $45.6 billion. The total potential fraud covers the period of March 2020 to April 2022,” the memo said.