Tens of thousands of fraudsters splurged on Lamborghinis, vacation homes, private jet flights and Cartier jewelry by fleecing the PPP loan system in a $200 billion heist — and did it because the COVID loan scheme was so easy to milk.
Approximately $1.2 trillion was rushed through Congress in 2020 and 2021 in COVID bailout cash for businesses and spent on the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDLP) and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) schemes.
But a new report from the Small Business Administration’s Office of Inspector General reveals an astonishing 17% vanished to fraud — an estimated total of $200 billion.
And the SBA says it estimates there are more than 90,000 “actionable leads,” while it has already prosecuted dozens — including a former New York Jets wide receiver, Josh Bellamy.
The spending spree on taxpayer dollars includes Donald Finley, owner of the now-shuttered Manhattan theme restaurant Jekyll & Hyde, who purchased a Nantucket home across from Dionis Beach with waterfront views with millions of dollars from PPP and EIDLP.
Finley faces up to 30 years in prison, and paying more than $3.2 million in restitution, plus a $1.25 million fine.
And experts say crooks created fake businesses or lied about their numbers of employees to get access to more free cash — because it was so simple to fleece the taxpayer.
“The fraud was so easy to commit. All of the information was self-reported and none of it was verified or checked,” Haywood Talcove of LexisNexis Risk Solutions told The Post.
“During the height of the pandemic, it was really hard to purchase [luxury] items like a Rolls-Royce, or a high-end Mercedes because you had people walking in with cash from the PPP program to purchase those items for whatever the dealer was asking,” Talcove said.
Justice might finally be catching up with some of the fraudsters: A total of 803 arrests have taken place as of May 2023 for pandemic fraud, the SBA said.