Florida goes by many nicknames, with “The Sunshine State” being the best known. It is also Spanish for “land of flowers,” according to Ponce de Leon’s initial reaction to the region. Florida also shares the “Gulf State” moniker with Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.
Federal law enforcement officials have a different nickname. They refer to Florida as “the capital of COVID-19 fraud.” The state topped the nation with 38 criminal cases filed by federal prosecutors involving $75 million in alleged fake claims.
The CARES Act of 2020 saw Congress spend billions on financial help for businesses and their employees negatively affected by the pandemic caused by the spread of a deadly virus. While the objective was to help the economy, alleged scams and schemes got the attention of the federal government. Authorities allege specific targets that include the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL), and Unemployment Insurance.
Accusations include stimulus money used for:
- A purported purchase of a Lamborghini that cost in excess of $300,000
- Commissions received for filing nearly $30 million in supposedly fake business loan applications
- An ex-professional football player alleged to have pocketed $300,000 in employment insurance benefits through supposed stolen identities
- Three South Florida residents charged with filing 167 PPL loan applications valued at $38 million, with 33 approved for a total of $55 million
- A Miami Gardens resident alleged to have submitted 13 identical EIDL applications to the Small Business Administration using her name and others
Criminal accusations do not equate to automatic guilt, whether the charges are against a business or individual. A government program was rushed to push out relief money to boost economic conditions. Authorities admit that the process is “anything but perfect.”
Serious allegations require a skilled and experienced criminal defense lawyer focusing on the facts and fighting for the rights of the accused.