Prosecutors: Gangs Used COVID Cash To Fund Criminal Activity

At the height of the pandemic, federal bureaucrats opted to shower Americans with loans, handouts, and other forms of financial assistance.

While these benefits were being sold as necessary largesse for citizens struggling to make ends meet during widespread lockdowns, subsequent evidence shows that oversight was woefully inadequate.

Scams ran rampant during the public health crisis, with fraudulent unemployment benefits alone amounting to an estimated loss of more than $60 billion.

Even more alarming are the recent revelations that organized street gangs were able to get their hands on a substantial amount of COVID-19 cash, which then served to fund their mission of committing brazen and often violent crimes.

In one case, the Insane Crip Gang of Long Island, New York, is accused of defrauding the government out of pandemic benefits by applying for unemployment as well as developing a method for creating fake businesses and applying for Small Business Administration loans.

The fairly sophisticated plan allowed gang members to bring in as much as $200,000 per month in 2020.

Federal prosecutors are now pursuing criminal charges against the suspects, as First Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Carolyn Pokorny announced.

“They used this money to fund the gang, buy guns, and live a lavish lifestyle,” she declared.

Nassau County District Attorney Anne T. Donnelly released a statement related to the indictment, asserting that the gang “celebrated its violence on social media, using that same social media as a recruiting tool, and financed its activities by systematically stealing from government benefit programs designed to aid the unemployed and those adversely impacted by COVID.”

Elsewhere in the Big Apple, the Brooklyn-based Woo gang also allegedly took advantage of the limited oversight of pandemic relief programs, as did the Step and Die gang based in Shreveport, Louisiana.

LexisNexis Risk Solutions executive Haywood Talcove advised that criminal entities are still scamming taxpayers out of money through similar means even though most of the pandemic-related programs have expired.

“The benefit programs are providing the capital that these criminal organizations use to invest in their business,” he said.

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) is one of many officials who have decried the ease with which individuals were able to defraud the SBA, asserting that it “cut billions of dollars of checks to almost anyone who asked, in any amount requested, without even doing simple background checks or verifying the accuracy of applications.”