Last June, eight guys from Brooklyn put their heads together, according to the US Department of Justice, and came up with a ploy to steal the identity of strangers and take what was not theirs.
Just a few months before that – in the early days of the fear of COVID-19 – Congress passed a $ 2.2 trillion bill called the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. The money was supposed to go to the millions of isolated Americans whose paychecks were cut off during the pandemic.
The Brooklyn mooks had other plans.
This gang of eight people, aged 18 to 25, submitted bogus unemployment claims worth $ 2 million for assistance under the CARES Act. And they got away with it for almost a year, according to the federal government. Several of these criminals have stupidly posted pictures of themselves online showing piles of money. Others have been surprised by ATM cameras withdrawing their free money. Broken!
The more Uncle Sam gives, the more criminals take. And it wasn’t just the Brooklyn gang. In addition to additional funds for larger unemployment checks, Congress has allocated nearly $ 350 billion Small business administration loans to be granted by sellers in 3,800 financial institutions.
Now we find out that only one of these lenders, an online company called Kabbage, OK’d over $ 7 million to go to bogus businesses, mostly non-existent farms. Speed of disbursements was the name of the game and apparently the verification of claims was lax. Many entities seeking loans from Kabbage looked suspicious. Cattle farms and ranches on a New Jersey sandbar? An orange grove in Minnesota? A potato field in Palm Beach, Florida? They were all wrong.
The SBA Inspector General now estimates that nearly 100,000 loans have gone to companies that were ineligible or that got more cash than they should have. By the end of March, the DOJ had laid criminal fraud charges against 474 people who were seeking to raise $ 570 million.
It’s great that the federal government caught up with these cheaters, but there had to be a better way to run this program from the start, right? Simply relying on an afterthought pursuit is like trying to chase the horse after it has passed through the open barn door.
An acquaintance told me he expected a small relief payment on a debit card, but it never happened. His wife called to find him, but the automated system forced her to enter the number on the card – which they never received, again. A typical government Catch-22. They finally gave up and are still wondering who got their $ 318 debit card.
The point is that there has been so much money that has flowed from US Treasury over the past year, the task of keeping track of it all seems futile. Billions of dollars in aid have already been approved by Congress; billions more are under consideration.
This is not monopoly money, my friends. And according to The Wall Street Journal, billions of dollars already injected into the American economy are still there. Between the CARES law and the companion American Rescue Plan Act, more than $ 32 billion reserved just for hospitals ravaged by the pandemic remains unused. They can’t spend their money fast enough to meet the June 30 deadline, so hospitals are asking for an extension.
The bailout also allocated $ 350 billion in windfall for states to help spur a post-pandemic recovery. Some states will be swimming in surplus dough, but who in Washington will check to see if the long rules for spending that money are actually being followed? Hopefully the supervision is better than what happened with the Kabbage loans.
It’s time to remember the reported words of a notorious criminal Willie Sutton. When asked why he robbed banks, he reportedly replied, “Because that’s where the money is!”
Whether Sutton actually said those words is disputed, but it is a certainty: the criminal element will pour in wherever there is an abundance of money and lax oversight. Today, money is printed and flowing out of the US Treasury at a ferocious rate. Calculating criminals plan.
When the US government is not diligent, taxpayers lose. It is perfectly clear that conscientious control is not practiced. I say, no more banknotes until that changes.
– Diane dimond is the author of three books, of which Be careful who you love in the Michael Jackson case, which is now updated with new chapters and is available as an audiobook. Contact her at [email protected], or click here to read the previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.