Mississippi News

IRS Criminal Investigation pursues CARES Act fraud 

The Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation’s Atlanta Field Office special agents are providing notice that although COVID-19 relief programs have ended, the pursuit of those who fraudulently obtained loans through those programs has not.

As of April 30, IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) has investigated 106 tax and money laundering cases in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi, totaling over $134 million. The investigations cover a broad range of criminal activity, including fraudulently obtained loans, and credits and payments meant for American workers, families, and businesses.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act, which provided economic assistance to American workers, families, small businesses, and industries. The Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program were two of the programs under the CARES Act that were designed to help businesses survive the pandemic.

“Unfortunately, unscrupulous individuals took advantage of the programs intended to help businesses survive the economic crises caused by the pandemic,” said Lisa Fontanette, Assistant Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation, Atlanta Field Office. “Numerous convictions over the last two years have proven that those who fraudulently received funds from the PPP and EIDL are enjoying their ill-gotten gains on borrowed time.”

On Aug. 5, 2022, President Biden signed bills H.R. 7334 and H.R. 7352 establishing a ten-year statute of limitations for PPP and EIDL fraud.

In 2022, the Justice Department announced the establishment of three strike force teams to enhance the Department’s existing efforts to combat and prevent COVID-19-related fraud.

The Strike Force teams are prosecutors and agents from the Department of Labor Office of Inspector General, the Small Business Administration Office of Inspector General, the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General, the FBI, the U.S. Secret Service, Homeland Security Investigations, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, with assistance from the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee and the Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery.

“Working with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, those individuals and groups who thought they found an easy way to get money are discovering that they were greatly mistaken,” Fontanette said.

Those who have been indicted and sentenced for fraudulently obtaining loans from PPP and EIDL programs include the following case from Mississippi.  

On June 15, 2022, a federal grand jury in Oxford returned an indictment charging Columbus, Miss., residents Jabari Ogbanna Edwards and Antwann Richardson with fraudulently obtaining more than $2 million in PPP and EIDL funds on behalf of a defunct business called North Atlantic Security.

IRS-CI encourages the public to share information regarding known or suspected fraud attempts against any of the programs offered through the CARES Act. To report a suspected crime, taxpayers may visit IRS.gov.

IRS-CI is the criminal investigative arm of the IRS, responsible for conducting financial crime investigations. IRS-CI special agents are the only federal law enforcement agents with investigative jurisdiction over violations of the Internal Revenue Code, boasting a more than a 90 percent federal conviction rate. 

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