Feds charge 14 Mississippians with defrauding pandemic relief program

Published 9:31 pm Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Fourteen Mississippi residents have been arrested on criminal charges related to a conspiracy to fraudulently obtain government funds through a federal program for small businesses, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Wednesday.

All are charged with conspiracy, illegal financial transactions and wire fraud by applying for loans through the Payroll Protection Program. The loans were dispersed by the U.S. Small Business Administration early on during the COVID-19 pandemic to prevent businesses from failing.

“The Secret Service remains steadfast in our commitment to investigating the exploitation of pandemic relief funds,” said U.S Secret Service special agent Ben Zack Rogers in a news release. “We are thankful for the hard work and continued support of our partners as we work together to ensure that our country’s financial environment remains safe and secure.”

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If convicted, the defendants face up to 30 years for the conspiracy and wire fraud violations and 10 years for the financial transaction charges, the Justice Department said.

Attorneys for the defendants could not immediately be reached for comment.