The US Secret Service’s Atlanta office has gone into overdrive, catching the fraudsters and recovering millions in stolen PPP loans and employment benefits.
ATLANTA — When COVID-19 hit, jobs plummeted, small businesses collapsed, families suffered, and millions of paychecks went missing.
As dollars began to flow amid COVID Paycheck Protection loans (PPP) and unemployment benefits to rescue struggling businesses and help those who have lost their jobs, millions of dollars have ended up in the hands of fraudsters and scammers.
In the front line to hunt them down is the Atlanta office of the American secret service, responsible for protecting the country’s financial system.
“This type of fraud is a very high priority for our agency and in our office we have around 15-20 officers investigating this full time and then we can bring in 20-30 additional officers if needed” , said Special Agent Steven. Baisel, who heads the Atlanta office, said.
Still, the big question is how did all this financial fraud get to scale?
According to the Secret Service, it was an electronic filing.
“Electronic cyberspace is the key to how quickly the fraud was able to take off,” Baisel said, adding that the priority was to get the money quickly to those who needed it.
“The programs weren’t in place to verify identity, and a lot of things happened so quickly that they thought they had it under control and surveillance, but it just wasn’t there,” said he continued.
Take the case of Kadeidra Ra’Shawon White. The Secret Service said she electronically filed bogus jobless claims using stolen credentials while working from her home in Clarkston. Within a month, the Secret Service said she had made over $1 million.
They also claimed she bought a new car and spent almost half the money before she was arrested, convicted and sentenced to federal prison, where White is currently serving her sentence.
Since the start of COVID, the Secret Service has cornered 13 people, recovering more than $3.6 million in loans.
They explained that 10 other suspects have been arrested for unemployment benefits fraud, with another $500,000 recovered and 40 more cases are pending, with much of that stolen money already recovered.
For the secret services, the hunt continues.
For the fraudsters and scammers who have stolen millions in taxpayers’ money, once the Secret Service and other agencies catch up with them, there will be only one big house to go to. It’s the American penitentiary, just like the one in the Atlanta metro.