US authorities accused 57 people of stealing $ 175 million from pandemic relief programs

The US Department of Justice had accused 57 people of stealing $ 175 million from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to help small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, The New York Times reports.

Individuals or small groups claimed they had legitimate businesses and claimed they needed PPP financial assistance to pay workers, but instead the payments were stolen. Besides, fraud cases related to the coronavirus relief programs had been brought across the United States.

In addition, U.S. authorities are currently investigating hundreds of suspected cases of fraud involving a popular economic relief program for small businesses struggling due to the coronavirus pandemic.

When applications closed in August, 5.2 million loans had been made totaling more than $525 billion.

The first case of fraud was announced as early as May, just weeks after the PPP program began.

Some large, publicly traded companies took the loans, as did contentious borrowers like small financial firms that manage money for the country’s riches families.

While their loans were not fraudulent, lawmakers and small-business advocates argued that the money had been diverted from businesses in need to enrich wealthy people and companies.

Law enforcement officials said it would take a long time to find and prosecute people who defrauded the government.

The Small Business Administration’s fraud hotline has received at least 42,000 reports about coronavirus-linked graft. It is noteworthy that last year there were only 800 reports of corruption in small businesses.

In turn, Internal Revenue Service criminal investigations chief James Lee said that it would be impossible to hide from digital and paper trails.