Federal authorities arrested 57 people for scamming some $175 million from the Paycheck Protection Program designed to help small businesses bounce back from coronavirus lockdown, Department of Justice officials said Thursday.
Investigators are eyeing hundreds of more alleged fraudsters who may have bilked up to $660 billion from the program, which was created as part of the far-reaching stimulus package signed into law by President Trump in March.
Authorities believe the fraud involves criminal rings who worked together to scam money from the program, acting assistant Attorney General Brian Rabbitt said during a press conference Thursday.
“The involvement of these rings isn’t surprising, but it is particularly troubling to us here at the department, we will be focusing on these types of cases, going forward,” he said.
Federal prosecutors in New York have brought charges against a number of alleged fraudsters, including a Hollywood honcho who allegedly swiped coronavirus-relief funds to pay off his car and credit debt.
William Sadleir, who helped found the film production and distribution company Aviron Pictures, allegedly applied for a $1.7 million loan through the Paycheck Protection Program in April that would be guaranteed by the Small Business Association, prosecutors in California said.
Sadleir said the loan would be used to pay employees at Aviron — where he was no longer working — and when the loan was approved, he began funneling the money into his personal accounts to pay off a car and credit-card debt, the feds said.
With Post wires
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