Several young men are accused of stealing $2 million from COVID-19 relief funds. They allegedly withdrew money from banks in Brooklyn and Queens.
According to documents, six of the eight defendants, aged between 18 and 25, were charged in Brooklyn federal court, but two remain at large. These defendants are Armani Miller, 24, and Johan Santos, 19.
Court documents show that four of the alleged thieves boasted their fortunes on their personal social media accounts. The photos they shared showed them holding large amounts of cash.
Grey metal case of hundred dollar bills. | Photo: Pexels
According to prosecutors, they used stolen information from the assistance program to get unemployment benefits. The benefits come mainly from COVID-19 pandemic assistance, the feds explained.
Money meant for other participants in the program was allegedly funneled into the suspects' personal bank accounts. After that, they withdrew the cash at various branches in Brooklyn and Queens.
Police standing on asphalt during nighttime. | Photo: Pexels
In total, they had over 100 Key Bank debit cards in other people's names that they used to request large withdrawals from Capital One ATMs in Flatlands and eastern Queens, as shown by surveillance photos and court documents.
Many financially strapped Americans and overwhelmed unemployment offices only suffer from this.
In June last year, these men allegedly conducted scams that continued through April, according to prosecutors. The way in which the suspects stole the victim's personal information remains unclear.
"There is never an excuse to knowingly commit fraud and steal from a system that was designed to help New Yorkers in a time of need," NYS DOL Commissioner Reardon explained.
Small judge gavel placed on table near folders. | Photo: Pexels
Mark Lesko, acting United States Attorney, said that their office would make sure to pursue all punishments against defendants who attempt to pocket public funds designated to lighten difficulty.
The surge in job losses has prompted criminals to steal unemployment benefits from Americans across the country. Many financially strapped Americans and overwhelmed unemployment offices only suffer from this.
COVID-19 statistics on screen. | Photo: Pexels
No exact figure is available on how many fraudulent claims have been filed but states from Washington to Maine report that fraud has increased, and many federal agencies are actively working to combat it.
Meanwhile, the number of people claiming unemployment benefits rose to 42.7 million in mid-March, though some have been rehired as states allowed businesses to reopen.