IRS Bags Hundreds Of Tax Cheats, Money Launderers As COVID Relief Fraud Tops $3.2 Billion

It wasn't long after the government began offering COVID relief loans three years ago that IRS investigators were hot on the tails of scammers.

IRS Photo Credit:

Since then, agents with IRS Criminal Investigation have pursued 975 tax and money-laundering cases nationwide involving $3.2 billion worth of fraudulently obtained loans, credits and payments meant to help American workers, families, and small businesses who were rocked by the pandemic.

Over that time, IRS-CI has kept its conviction rate at nearly 100%, federal authorities say.

It has produced indictments against 458 defendants, 236 of whom have taken guilty pleas or were convicted at trial, records show. 

Those convicted have each been sentenced to an average of three years -- terms that must be fully served because there's no parole in the federal prison system.

Earlier this week, a businessman in North Jersey was sentenced to three years in federal prison for collecting $1.8 million in COVID-19 pandemic loans that he wasn't entitled to

SEE: NJ COVID Scammer Who Pocketed $1.8M In Taxpayer-Funded Rescue Loans Gets Three Years In Fed Pen

“IRS-CI is proud to lead the fight against COVID-related fraud,” said Tammy Tomlins, the acting special Agent in Charge of the IRS Criminal Investigation Newark Field Office. “Newark IRS Special Agents are committed to working with our law enforcement partners to investigate and hold accountable criminals looking to steal from hardworking Americans by exploiting the CARES Act.”

Congress in 2020 established the $670 billion taxpayer-funded Paycheck Protection Program through the CARES Act, which was “designed to provide emergency financial assistance to millions of Americans who are suffering the economic effects resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic,” U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Philip R. Sellinger said.

The PPP allowed the interest and principal to be forgiven if businesses spent the proceeds on these expenses within a set time period and used at least a certain percentage of the loan towards payroll expenses.

The program distributed an estimated $525 billion in forgivable loans to more than five million companies, saving an estimated 50 million jobs during one of the worst national crises in recent history.

Businesses were supposed to use PPP loans to cover payroll, mortgage interest, rent and utilities. 

It didn’t exactly work out that way. Some of what turned out to be tens of thousands of recipients who weren’t eligible took the money and ran, federal authorities said.

A Sussex County, NJ, scammer, for one, identified people who’d been dead for years as business partners to help collect $1.9 million from the federal fund established to help struggling companies during COVID-19.

SEE: Feds: Sussex Scammer Used Dead People’s Names To Collect $1.9M In COVID Relief

Another North Jersey scammer who collected $5.6 million was about to board a flight to Pakistan when federal agents arrested him, they said.

SEE: Feds Nab Fleeing North Jersey Man Accused Of Pocketing $5.6M Small Biz Pandemic Loan

NOTE: IRS-CI is the criminal investigative arm of the IRS, responsible for pursuing criminals who commit tax fraud, traffic drugs or launder money, as well as those involved in public corruption, healthcare fraud, ID theft and more. It has 20 field offices across the U.S. and 12 attaché posts abroad. Its special agents are the only federal law enforcers with investigative jurisdiction over violations of the Internal Revenue Code.

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, go to:

to follow Daily Voice North Passaic and receive free news updates.