When the COVID-19 pandemic began almost two years ago, scammers immediately began siphoning off the trillions in federal aid that Congress had approved.
COMPANIES PAID 30 BILLION USD BACK IN VIRUS RELIEF LOAN FROM PPP
Authorities say those scammers include Allison Baver, a former Olympic speed skater who U.S. Attorneys in Utah say have been charged with eight counts of misrepresentation at a bank and one count of money laundering.
The 41-year-old won a bronze medal in the women’s 3000m relay at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, almost a year after breaking her ankle and leg in multiple places at a competition in Bulgaria.
After winning the Olympics, Baver founded Allison Baver Entertainment, a company that describes itself as “the engine behind needle-moving stories.
Now authorities say Baver lied on loan applications to fraudulently receive $10 million from the Paycheck Protection Program – part of which she invested in a film about serial killer Ted Bundy, prosecutors say.
Baver allegedly claimed in some applications for PPP funding that her company had an average monthly payroll of $4 million and 105 employees, according to the indictment. In others, she said she had 430 workers. But the prosecution alleges that Baver actually had no employees or monthly payslip.
In May 2020, one of the banks, Meridian, approved a $10 million loan for Allison Baver Entertainment. Two months later, the indictment says, Baver wired $150,000 to another production company behind the film No Man of God, in which Elijah Wood plays serial killer Ted Bundy.
According to local broadcaster KTSU, federal prosecutors want Baver to forfeit around $9.7 million of the money. She also faces up to 40 years if convicted on all counts.
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The Secret Service estimated last month that around $100 billion was stolen from COVID-19 aid funds, a figure based on Secret Service cases and data from the Labor Department and Small Business Administration. It does not include COVID-19 scams prosecuted by the Department of Justice. Overall, at least 3% of the $3.4 trillion in federal pandemic aid was stolen by scammers, showing that “the sheer size of the pot is tempting for criminals,” the Secret Service said.
“Every state has been hit, some harder than others,” said Roy Dotson, deputy special agent in charge. “The Secret Service is on its way trying to recover everything we can, including funds stolen from both federal and state programs.”