By this point, it’s no secret that the various COVID relief programs that the federal government rushed through at the start of the pandemic have been fleeced for staggering amounts of money by fraudsters. Some of the thieves that we know about snapped up millions of dollars in fraudulent payments, primarily from the Paycheck Protection Program, later being caught after going on lavish spending sprees. But one woman from Oklahoma has put most of the others to shame. After being arrested in June, she pleaded guilty this week to soaking up an incredible $32 million in funds intended help employers keep their workers on the payroll during the shutdowns. And the means she used to claim all of the money were so transparently bogus that her attorneys probably didn’t see any point in fighting it out in court. (NBC News)
An Oklahoma woman who was part of a scheme to scam more than $32 million from a Covid relief fund designed to keep businesses afloat pleaded guilty Wednesday, federal prosecutors said.
Amanda J. Gloria, 45, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and money laundering, the Justice Department said in a statement.
She was charged in June with helping a New York man get a loan for close to $1 million with the Paycheck Protection Program, using faked payroll and other documents.
Reading through some of the details, it’s amazing that Ms. Gloria could find the time to fill out all of the forms and deposit all of the checks. She was not only filing bogus forms for herself but helping many others figure out how to game the system in exchange for a cut of the action.
Gloria owned a trucking company and received nearly half a million dollars to keep all of her drivers and other employees on the payroll. Investigators quickly learned that the company had basically gone out of business in 2017, long before the pandemic began, and she had no employees on the payroll. But it was her work on behalf of other aspiring fraudsters that really raked in the government cheese. In all, she assisted 111 business entities in filling out and filing bogus PPP claims. The majority of them appear to be businesses like her own that had already gone under before the pandemic and had no workers to keep employed. Her share of the proceeds added up to nearly two million dollars.
The PPP fund was obviously set up in a way that made it look like a giant piggy bank to potential thieves. The Paycheck Protection Program has been described as having led to “the biggest fraud in a generation.” When one senator asked the DoJ Inspector General approximately how much of the money had vanished through illicit means, he was forced to admit that we have no idea as to the full extent of the fraud and we will likely never know. But he was willing to offer a conservative estimate of at least $100 billion.
The reason we won’t ever know and that many thieves will end up getting away with this is that the majority of the people that the Justice Department is managing to catch are the really stupid ones who were so greedy that their sudden rush of good fortune was impossible not to notice. Failed business owners who are suddenly going around to high-end classic car auctions and scooping up Lamborghinis tend to stand out and attract attention.
But out there across the country, there were obviously people who were far more careful. Some of them were legitimate business owners who simply fluffed up their numbers, claiming more employees than they actually had and pocketing the extra government cash. The applications were flying in at a fast and furious pace and the government was just rubber-stamping the forms in most cases, not wanting to look like they were dragging their feet and letting employers go under. So if we’re going to continue these programs or even create new ones, it’s worth asking Congress whether they plan to put new fraud-protection measures in place, even if it means delaying a few payments.