Some PPP loans given out during coronavirus pandemic stolen by criminals, FBI says

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Paycheck Protection Program has issued $22 billion to struggling Illinois businesses, but some of those federal loans are being stolen, according to the FBI.

The PPP money is meant for local businesses and their employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. The ABC7 I-Team has found that these loans are also being stolen by criminals.

"It's a large pot of money; and anytime you see this amount of money available, with a quick turnaround time and getting it out to the community, it's going to be a great opportunity for scammers to do what they do best," FBI Special Agent Siobhan Johnson said.

The FBI said scammers could have pretended to be your business, gathering enough information to apply for a PPP loan.

"If someone's applying for funds in your business' name, then they're taking all of the money that would have been able to go to you. So now what do you do? You can't pay your employees, you can't pay your business expenses and perhaps you go under because they stole those funds," Johnson said.

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She said if you were rejected and told your business already was given money, you could be a victim.

Authorities said there is another scam related to PPP -- real business owners who may not need the money or who may be misspending the funds, which are supposed to be used to pay rent or employees.

"You're going to see in the coming months an avalanche of indictments and charges against those who are defrauding this program," Johnson said.
The FBI said it expects several violators since the process to get funds moved fast.

"But things could be fraudulent that on the first glance make it through. That's just a necessity of moving quickly," Johnson said. "However, what I want to make very clear is that people need to understand that we are looking at, those loans that we are going to find the discrepancies. And if you sought to defraud the government or financial institutions, we are going to come for you."

If you know of someone cheating the system or If you've been a victim of someone applying for PPP under your name, you should report it to the FBI. They may be able to track down the fraudsters.
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