On Tuesday, the Department of Justice announced that they had caught five current or former IRS employees in a scheme to defraud the federal government’s COVID-19 relief programs of over $1 million.
Five Current or Former IRS Employees Charged with Defrauding Federal COVID-19 Relief Programshttps://t.co/EFTl8dLZbY
— Criminal Division (@DOJCrimDiv) October 4, 2022
The defendants allegedly filed fraudulent loan applications to the Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program. They then used the funds, which collectively totaled over $1 million, for unauthorized purposes, including cars, clothes, and personal travel.
U.S. Attorney Kevin G. Ritz for the Western District of Tennessee talked about the deviousness of stealing funds meant for the needy.
“These individuals – acting out of pure greed – abused their positions by taking government funds meant for citizens and businesses who desperately needed it,” said Ritz. “I thank our law enforcement partners for rooting out this fraud.”
“Our office will not hesitate to pursue and charge individuals who steal from our nation’s taxpayers,” Ritz added.
The five IRS employees charged are Brian Saulsberry, Courtney Quinshe Westmoreland, Fatina Hewitt, Roderick DeMarco White II, and Tina Humes.
Saulsberry, 46, is facing two counts of wire fraud and two counts of money laundering. He allegedly spent the fraudulently obtained funds on a Mercedes-Benz and put the rest into his personal investment account.
Authorities charged Westmoreland, 38, with three counts of wire fraud. She allegedly spent the funds on manicures, massages, and luxury clothing.
Hewitt, 35, is charged with one count of wire fraud. Authorities allege her funds went towards Gucci clothing and a trip to Las Vegas.
Both White and Humes were charged with one count of wire fraud. Authorities say they spent their fraudulent funds on a Gucci satchel, jewelry, and trips to Las Vegas.
If convicted of wire fraud, the defendants face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. If convicted of money laundering, there is a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
Director for COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Kevin Chambers emphasized that his department will continue to seek out and prosecute fraudsters.
“This matter demonstrates the brazenness with which bad actors have taken advantage of federal programs meant to help those who suffered most from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Chambers. “The Justice Department will continue to work hard to root out PPP and EIDL Program fraud, including that committed by government employees.”
The federal government previously revealed that billions had been fraudulently obtained through the COVID-19 relief programs.