These COVID crooks are getting a jab of justice.
Nearly $100 billion of COVID relief funds has been defrauded across the United States since the pandemic began, the Secret Service announced Tuesday, adding that there are almost 1,000 separate investigations into these startling financial frauds.
Two high profile athletes have already been cuffed for the crime: US Olympic speedskater Allison Marie Baver is accused of ripping off $10 million, as well as former New York Jets wide receiver and onetime millionaire Kenbrell Thompkins, whose damages are in the hundreds of thousands.
There have also been plenty of “average Joe” perps getting busted after spending their lavish relief dough on trivial purchases, such as flashy cars or rare, five-figure Pokémon cards (both true, real examples, sadly). Gotta catch ’em all, right?
A group of deceitful dingbats in Brooklyn were even found out after posing online with some $2 million of ill-begotten relief funds.
Read on for the most ridiculous, and egregious, COVID relief scammers that have been caught — so far.
Bronze medalist Allison Marie Baver
The ice is getting awfully thin for this former Olympic speedskater.
The 41-year-old Baver — who medaled with the US women’s 3,000-meter relay team during the 2010 Vancouver games — was brought up last week on money laundering charges and eight counts of making a false statement to a bank after allegedly defrauding an estimated $10 million of COVID funds, according to the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Utah. She applied for eight Paycheck Protection Program loans in April 2020, seeking the $10 million for her production company, Allison Baver Entertainment, which she founded in 2019, two years into her skating retirement.
Baver allegedly BS’d the government into believing she had a monthly payroll of $4.7M, whereas she actually had none at all, according to court documents. She also claimed to have employed between 100 and 430 people, which the feds are alleging to be phony.
Baver also transferred $150,000 to another production company, behind the August-released Ted Bundy film “No Man of God,” a film she cameoed in, KTSU reported.
Prosecutors are aiming to make Baver forfeit about $9.7 million of her funds. She could also do 40 years in prison if convicted on all counts, according to KTSU. She is due for arraignment on Jan. 18, 2022.
New York Jet Kenbrell Thompkins
Looks like he dropped the ball on this one.
Former Jets wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins pled guilty to one count of unauthorized access device fraud — the theft of banking or credit cards — and one count of aggravated identity fraud last October. He allegedly stole the identities of several Florida residents to apply for COVID unemployment benefits while in California. Thompkins was then awarded $300,000 in debit cards under false pretenses, which were sent to a South Florida address he was using, according to the Associated Press.
The AP also reported that he withdrew about $230,000 of those funds at various ATMs in Miami-Dade County. Thompkins — who spent an uneventful 2015 season with Gang Green — is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 6 and faces up to 12 years in prison.
Brooklyn man busted after spending $2M on flashy cars
Living life in the fast lane doesn’t always take you where you want to go.
Leon Miles, a 51-year-old Brooklyn man, was arrested for collecting about $2 million in PPP funds that allegedly fueled his lust for luxury cars, according to federal prosecutors.
After the forgivable loan of $1,904,593 hit Miles’ personal bank account, he withdrew hundreds of thousands in the upcoming days, spending $250,000 on a 2020 white Bentley Continental that he posed with on Instagram and $100,000 on a 2020 Cadillac Escalade, the prosecution alleged.
The loan was approved after Miles claimed that he had a monthly payroll of $768,838, used to employ 50 people through his company 114 Macon LLC, court papers indicated.
In reality, Miles had no taxable income, his company hadn’t filed a single tax return, and reported no wage payments in 2019. The listed address for the alleged business was also that of his home, the documents revealed.
If convicted, Miles could do 30 years in the slammer.
Young group of eight from Brooklyn pose with stolen millions online
The lifelong advice of “be careful what you post on social media” has come back to bite these Brooklyn buddies.
Bryan Abraham, 18, Carlos Vazquez, 20, Angel Cabrera, 18, Gianni Stewart, 19, Andre Ruddock, 25, Seth Golding, 18, Armani Miller, 24, and Johan Santos, 19, were indicted in federal court last May for conspiracy to commit access-device fraud, by allegedly stealing $2M in COVID funds that they also posed with in online photos — now being used as evidence by the feds.
According to court papers, after stealing personal information from people in COVID-assistance programs, the group allegedly began funnelIng cash into their own bank accounts and withdrew the money throughout Brooklyn and Queens from June 2020 to April 2021.
They were caught with 100 KeyBank debit cards in the names of other people, ones which were used to make mass withdrawals from Capital One ATMs in South Brooklyn’s Flatlands and other spots in Eastern Queens, surveillance images and court documents indicate.
As if the photos of half the group flaunting the funds in social media photos weren’t enough, they also used the same addresses and cellphone numbers on several of the false claims, according to the prosecution.
NJ man gets time for stealing half a million in PPP
Earlier this month, Bernard Lopez, a 40-year-old man from Sayreville, NJ, was given two-and-a-half years in jail for taking PPP funds for a phony business and for also depositing a treasury check of $211,886 which was stolen and altered, according to prosecutors.
Lopez filed the fake PPP loan in June of 2020, claiming his phantom company employed 25 and had a monthly payroll of roughly $192,000 in expenses. He received $481,502 from a lender and put the funds toward personal use, the prosecution reported.
After multiple law enforcement agencies tracked him down in Florida during July 2020, he was brought back to New Jersey to stand trial.
Lopez was also sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered restitution of $137,000. He will also be forfeiting the $481,502, according to officials.
Georgia man blew $57K of relief on rare Pokémon card
Not even Team Rocket would stoop this low.
Vinath Oudomsine of Dublin, Ga., was arrested after using $57,789 of his Economic Injury Disaster Loan to buy an exclusive Pokémon card, according to federal court papers from October.
He is accused of falsely applying for the EIDL small business loan in July 2020, where Oudomsine stated he had been operating a company since 2018 with $235,000 in revenue and 10 employees on payroll.
In good faith, the Small Business Administration then deposited $85,000 into his bank account just a month later.
Prosecutors allege that last January, Oudomsine used a sizable chunk of the money to procure an unnamed Pokémon card that’s likely the envy of card-collecting kids everywhere.
Oudomsine could do 20 years in federal prison and faces fines as high as $250,000.
Texas man used wrongful $1.6M on Lamborghini; Rolex
Don’t expect any mercy here.
In November, Lee Price III, a 30-year-old Texas man, was sentenced to over nine years in prison after using $1.6 million in relief money to buy a Lamborghini Urus, a Ford F-350 truck and a Rolex watch, according to the Department of Justice.
Price, who pled guilty to wire fraud and money laundering charges in September, was originally awarded the money by falsifying PPP loans, the DOJ reported.
He also altered payroll expenses and the amount of employees at three separate, unnamed businesses.
So far, the Justice Department has recovered more than $700,000 of the wrongfully issued funds.