DOJ Arrests NFL Player, Dozens Of Others Charged With Attempting To Steal $ 175 Million In PPP Loans
The Justice Department has arrested more than 50 people on suspicion of fraudulently obtaining loans under the government’s signature program to help small businesses affected by the Coronavirus pandemic.
Those charged by the agency include National Football League player Josh Bellamy. Bellamy, who until recently was a big receiver for the New York Jets, has secured more than $ 1.2 million in federal aid for his company, Drip Entertainment. Prosecutors said Bellamy used much of the money, which was intended to help small businesses keep workers on the payroll, for personal expenses, including nearly $ 63,000 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel. and Casino in Hollywood, Florida. Bellamy was taken into custody Thursday morning.
The Jets declined to comment. A source close to the team said Bellamy was no longer on the Jets’ roster. Bellamy could not be reached for comment.
At least 57 people accused of wrongly receiving– ranging in size from $ 30,000 to $ 24 million and totaling $ 175 million – have been charged since May, federal officials said at a press conference Thursday. Individuals spent the loans on “frivolous material expenses,” including sports cars and homes for personal use, said Craig Goldberg, deputy chief inspector of the United States Postal Inspection Service.
The Paycheck program made more than 5 million loans totaling $ 525 billion before closing new applications last month. Yet many small business owners who were denied loans found themselves strapped for cash and had to lay off workers or even shut down their businesses.
“The money they stole was taxpayer money. Every dollar they took was a dollar we all put aside to help our fellow Americans in the worst national crisis in history,” he said. said Brian C. Rabbitt, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. Thusday.
Suspected fraudsters fall into two categories, according to the agency. The first includes people who claimed to have applied for loans to pay workers and cover other authorized expenses, but instead spent the money on luxury cars, a house, renovations, diamonds, strip clubs. -tease and gambling.
For example, entrepreneur Lee Price III of Houston, Texas, who applied for loans from two separate companies, was accused with fraudulently obtaining more than $ 1.6 million in coronavirus relief funds. Price allegedly used the money to buy a Lamborghini Urus sports car and Rolex watch, as well as for real estate transactions and at Houston strip clubs and nightclubs, prosecutors said.
Kenneth gaughan, from Washington, DC, was charged after securing $ 2.1 million in paychecks and economic disaster loans, part of which he spent to purchase a 33-foot yacht, a 2020 Kia Stinger, and a townhouse in Washington, DC.
The second category of fraudsters would have been involved in coordinated criminal networks comprising several individuals. The fraudulent activity resulted in losses of $ 70 million for the government, according to the Justice Department, which was able to recover or freeze more than $ 30 million in loans.
The agency said the multiple arrests should serve as a warning to those considering defrauding the government. Rabbitt said he expects more fraud related to the Paycheck program to be uncovered.
During the press conference, James Lee, deputy chief of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, warned criminals: “Those of you who think you are smart, who think you are staying under the radar because you don’t flaunt the stolen money, I’m here to tell you you’re not smart, we all see you and you can’t hide from these paper and digital proofs that you let us follow. “