News USA 44 people accused of committing fraud with financial aid due to covid-19...

44 people accused of committing fraud with financial aid due to covid-19 are arrested in Puerto Rico

(CNN Spanish) — The head of the United States Federal Attorney’s Office in Puerto Rico, Stephen Muldrow, announced this Thursday the accusation against 44 people residing on the island for their alleged participation in a multimillion-dollar fraud with the intention of illegally obtaining federal funds from the recovery under the law known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES).

The Prosecutor’s Office confirmed this Friday that 36 of the 44 accused were arrested, five offered to turn themselves in voluntarily and three have already turned themselves in. Some of them have a public defender.

The defendants were released after agreeing to pay bail and the hearings for the reading of charges were scheduled for May 24, when it will be possible to know how they plead.

Among those indicated are eight baseball players who participate in different amateur and professional leagues in Puerto Rico.

The Prosecutor’s Office added that a grand jury charges the 44 people with multiple counts of wire fraud and money laundering.

The Prosecutor’s Office points out that “from April 2020 to May 2023, the defendants and their accomplices committed fraud” by submitting at least 52 applications to access the benefits of EIDL (Economic Injury Disaster Loan) and PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) loans, involving the disbursement of more than $1.2 million in federal funds from the US Small Business Administration (SBA) and a bank, which was not identified.

“These defendants stole more than $1 million through fraudulent means and used those funds to support their own personal lifestyles, taking necessary resources from those whose legitimate businesses were suffering losses due to the covid-19 pandemic,” Muldrow said in the statement.

It was reported that the US Secret Service, the SBA Office of the Inspector General, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, and the Criminal Investigation Center of the Internal Revenue Service participated in the investigation, with the collaboration of the Department of the Treasury of Puerto Rico, the Bureau of Special Investigations, the Bureau of the Police of Puerto Rico and the Police of the municipality of Guaynabo.

Federal authorities reported that they are in the process of seizing approximately US$848,957 of profits thanks to the scheme at the bank that was not identified.

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