Brooklyn Gang Members Stole $4 Million in COVID Funds, Watchdog Warns

This example is just a drop in the ocean, as federal COVID programs were rife with fraud from the get-go.

Eleven gang members with ties to the dark, violent “drill rap scene” in Brooklyn were arrested in February for allegedly attempting to turn Covid-19 relief programs into a “bottomless ATM,” NYPD officials and federal prosecutors said. The group conspired to steal $20 million in unemployment funds and managed to steal $4.3 million.

According to the NY Daily News, a federal probe by the Department of Labor Inspector General’s office revealed that the suspects used stolen identities to fraudulently claim unemployment benefits via ATM cards, direct deposits, and paper checks, making it easy for criminals to cash in on one identity after another.

“The result of this was like gang criminal magic,” NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Public Information John Miller told the Daily News. “It was a never-ending spigot of money, because when you tapped out the funds from one identity, you simply moved on to another, and to another, and to another.”

After cashing in, the suspects celebrated with trips to California, housing rentals, luxury cars, and celebratory social media posts displaying stacks of cash, the newspaper reported. Some even rapped about it in a YouTube video, “Trappin’,” where they rap the lyrics “Unemployment got us workin’ a lot.”

One suspect, Romean Brown, even pondered on Facebook whether he should expand his operations to get even more false identities, defiantly declaring “S— is too easy,” according to the Daily News. He was later pulled over for running a stop sign, and police found three unemployment benefits ATM cards on him, according to federal prosecutors.

While small businesses were struggling to stay open and laid off employees were struggling to make ends meet, these criminals took advantage of lax oversight.

The #WasteOfTheDay is brought to you by the forensic auditors at OpenTheBooks.com. This article originally appeared on RealClearPolicy. 

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