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Five current and former IRS agents have been accused of fraudulently applying for COVID relief funds from the federal government, then using that money for lavish spending sprees.
According to reports, five agents in the greater Memphis, Tennessee, area have been accused of applying for more than $1 million total from the the Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program, which were made available for small businesses devastated by the COVID-19 government shutdowns of 2020. In all, the Department of Justice says, the suspects actually received just over $400,000.
Thus far, two of the individuals have been indicted and three have reached plea agreements with prosecutors. The DOJ claims that:
- Brian Saulsberry, 46, applied for $500,000 in loans and received more than $170,000. He allegedly purchased a Mercedes-Benz with some of the money and placed the rest of it in an investment account. He has been charged with two counts of wire fraud and two counts of money laundering.
- Courtney Quinshe Westmoreland, 38, applied for over $32,000 in loans and received $11,500. She has also been accused of collecting over $16,000 in unemployment benefits, even though she was an IRS employee at the time. She has been charged with three counts of wire fraud.
- Fatina Hewitt, 35, admitted to making fraudulent claims about businesses under her control in order to apply for nearly $350,000 in relief loans. She ultimately received $29,000, which she spent on a trip to Las Vegas and a Gucci shopping spree.
- Tina Humes, 56, admitted to applying for $134,000 and receiving $124,000, which she also spent on a trip to Vegas as well as jewelry.
- Roderick DeMarco White II, 27, admitted to applying for $113,000 and receiving nearly $67,000.
Both Saulsberry and Westmoreland face up to 20 years in prison for each wire fraud charge and 10 years for each money laundering charge. Hewitt, Humes, and White each pled guilty to one count of wire fraud and likewise face up to 10 years in federal prison.
It is unknown whether any of the accused are connected to each other in some way. They have each been charged separately.
Though there is no indication that the suspects used their position as IRS agents to secure an advantage in the PPP/EIDL loan process, IRS officials acknowledge that their alleged participation in the scheme puts the entire agency in a bad light.
"The IRS employees charged in these cases allegedly abused the trust placed in them by the public," said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department's Criminal Division.
"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," added Kevin Chambers, the director of COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement.
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Sr. Editor, News
Cortney Weil is a senior editor for Blaze News.