Rep. Josh Gottheimer has a message for fraudsters taking advantage of COVID-19 assistance funding: your day is coming.
The New Jersey representative joined Rep. Van Taylor (R-TX) in calling on the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Small Business Administration (SBA) to redouble their efforts in identifying and investigating fraud in connection to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) programs.
In addition, the lawmakers asked the agencies to provide recommendations for further legislative action that could be used to hold fraudsters accountable.
Fighting Against Fraud
“Hundreds of honest small business owners in our districts were denied loans through PPP and EIDL while criminals forged applications to steal taxpayer dollars. Your departments must continue working aggressively to identify and prosecute cases of EIDL and PPP fraud,” the members wrote in a letter to Attorney General Merrick B. Garland and SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman.
“Applicants from businesses in our districts may have been denied critical financial resources due to fraud, and we owe it to our constituents to hold bad actors accountable.”
Prior Actions Against Fraud
The members noted more than 1,000 cases of EIDL and PPP fraud had been prosecuted by the DOJ, which resulted in millions of dollars of stolen COVID-19 small business relief funds. Hundreds were still under investigation.
Congress previously passed legislation that extended the statute of limitations for EIDL and PPP fraud cases to ten years from five, giving the federal government additional time to investigate and prosecute the cases.
“It is unthinkable that individuals knowingly stole resources from these programs that should have gone to support businesses in their community. These fraudsters need to be held accountable,” the members wrote.
Two New Jersey-based Cases
Last week, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey announced two cases related to COVID-19 relief program fraud.
On Dec. 7, the office indicted four people had been charged for their roles in a kickback conspiracy involving COVID-19 testing that defrauded federal health insurance programs.
Abid Syed, 45, of East Hanover; Tariq Din, 55, of Saddle River; David Weathers, 59, of the Bronx, New York; and Muhammad Aurangzeb, 45, of Robbinsville, were each charged by indictment with one count of conspiracy to violate the federal Anti-Kickback Statute for their roles in a scheme to defraud Medicare and the Health Resources and Services Administration COVID-19 Uninsured Program.
On Dec. 8, the office announced the sentencing of Paul Andrecola of Maple Shade for defrauding over 75 victims of more than $2.7 million in connection to a nationwide scheme to sell pesticides that were falsely billed as registered with the EPA and approved to kill coronavirus.
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