New task force targets COVID relief fraud in Palm Beach County
Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg has formed a task force with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office to help the FBI go after thieves who swindled COVID-19 unemployment relief money.
A member of the task force explained how this theft works.
"A large loan is funded from PPP, purportedly for keeping the business open, keeping the employees paid," task force member and Palm Beach County Sheriff's Deputy Mark Berey said. "And we find out there are no employees. And in some cases, many cases, there's no operating business at all."
According to the U.S. Secret Service, $100 billion was stolen from the Payroll Protection Program.
Aronberg said he doesn't know how much fraud exists locally, but he's formed a task force to help the federal government hold PPP thieves accountable.
One task force member said crooks took relief money to buy expensive homes, luxury cars and travel the world.
Aronberg said the public wants thieves hit with criminal charges and potentially stiff prison terms for those who stole taxpayer money.
"It's hard to get the money back because the money is often spent," Aronberg said. "But we can put handcuffs around people's wrists and that makes a big difference, and you'll be surprised at how that will influence others who may have defrauded the government to start repaying the money they defrauded."
Task force members have already worked on cases that led to two arrests on PPP fraud. The most recent was a Boynton Beach man charged with swindling more than $400,000 that he was awarded for a PPP loan for a business that prosecutors said never existed.
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