The Department of Justice announced that five current or former IRS employees have been charged with fraudulently obtaining hundreds of thousands of dollars in COVID-19 relief funds.
By applying through the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan programs, the employees requested a combined total of $1.1 million, the DOJ said in a news release. They were granted over $400,000 — close to a third of that.
The IRS employees allegedly used the relief funds to purchase vehicles, spa services, jewelry, luxury clothing and vacations.
The individuals were identified as Brian Saulsberry, 46; Courtney Quinshe Westmoreland, 38; Fatina Hewitt, 35; Roderick DeMarco White II, 27; and Tina Humes, 56.
Saulsberry, White and Humes are from Memphis, Tennessee. Westmoreland lives in Cordova, Tennessee, while Hewitt is from Olive Branch, Mississippi.
Here are the charges they face, according to the Oct. 4 news release from the Justice Department:
• Saulsberry is charged with two counts of wire fraud and two counts of money laundering. He requested $501,400 in EIDL loans and obtained $171,400. He allegedly purchased a Mercedes-Benz.
• Westmoreland is charged with three counts of wire fraud. She asked for $32,500 in fraudulent loan requests and obtained $11,500. Westmoreland also fraudulently obtained an additional $16,050 in unemployment benefits, according to the DOJ. She allegedly used the money on spa services and luxury clothing.
• Hewitt is charged with one count of wire fraud. She sought $338,900 and obtained $28,900. Hewitt allegedly used the funds to buy Gucci clothing and a vacation to Las Vegas.
• White is charged with one count of wire fraud. He requested $113,311 and was granted $66,666. White allegedly spent the fraudulently obtained funds on personal items, including a Gucci satchel.
• Humes is charged with one count of wire fraud. She requested $133,812 in loans and obtained $123,612. Humes allegedly used the money on jewelry and trips to Las Vegas.
Out of the five alleged fraudsters, four were current IRS employees.
“Each count of wire fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, and each count of money laundering carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison,” the DOJ said in the news release.
The charges were brought forward by the Justice Department’s COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force, which aims to prevent pandemic-related fraud.
“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 Kevin Chambers, the director of the task force.
“The Justice Department will continue to work hard to root out PPP and EIDL Program fraud, including that committed by government employees,” Chambers said.
“These individuals – acting out of pure greed – abused their positions by taking government funds meant for citizens and businesses who desperately needed it,” said U.S. Attorney Kevin G. Ritz for the Western District of Tennessee.
He added, “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.”
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.