900 criminal investigations opened, 100 arrested to date

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) – Money is one of the main things businesses and people need to survive the pandemic.

Mohammed “Mo” Sloan is the CEO and Founder of EZ-Chow, a third-party digital ordering company for restaurants and hotel organizations.

The PPP loan he got legally helped keep his business afloat during the pandemic.

“People took advantage of businesses, especially small businesses, by taking funds that weren’t asked or applicable to them,” Sloan said.

EZ-Chow serves over 200 businesses across the county and has approximately seven employees. He was able to benefit from the PPP loan during the two rounds.

“Any additional funding that we can get helps a lot,” Sloan said. ” Is it sufficient ? Not really.”

The companies walked away with billions of dollars in funding, however, some of these companies are not real.

Like Randall Blankenship, 49 bogus payroll system with his Woodford County business who stole $ 1,323,829. The US Department of Justice has said he faces 20 years in prison.

Karenda Vaughn of Laurel County also faces 22 years in prison for COVID fraud.

Dave Christopher is the founder of the Russell Tech Business Incubator and helps minority businesses overcome financial barriers.

“I’m not surprised… it was ripe for fraud,” Christopher said. “The system was set up for those who could figure out how to handle it. Businesses are struggling and you hear the ordeal is coming and then the ordeal passes right by you.

Christopher said minority companies were the most excluded from PPP loans because they did not have the structure ready.

Meanwhile, this week the Secret Service announced nearly $ 100 billion stolen from COVID relief funds and up to $ 400 billion stolen from unemployment programs.

The US Department of Labor said about $ 87 billion in unemployment benefits could have been inappropriately paid, mostly related to fraud.

“Waste and fraud ultimately hurt everyone,” Sloan said.

The Southeastern region of the Small Business Association serves Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. It has approved a total of over 53,000 PPP loans valued at over $ 4 billion.

Nationally, over 400,000 loans valued at over $ 35 billion have been approved for the January 2021 cycle. Overall, the average loan size is $ 87,000.

Together, over 5.5 million PPP loans have been approved for a total of over $ 557.8 billion.

“It was put in place for people with power to have more power,” Christopher said.

Christopher said there should have been different income levels to focus on helping small businesses. Ultimately, he said people would always benefit from something that is supposed to do good.

The Secret Service said there are currently 900 active criminal investigations into pandemic fraud. 100 people have been arrested so far.

Through financial institutions, the Secret Service said it was able to reverse some of the payments. The Secret Service pandemic coordinator said all estimates revealed are conservative and always strive to hold people responsible for lying and stealing money.

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Mark M. Gagnon