17 Florida Sheriff's Deputies are Charged with Stealing Almost $500,000 in Pandemic Relief Funds

Seventeen Florida sheriff’s deputies made their court appearances on a recent Thursday, facing charges of embezzling approximately half a million dollars in pandemic relief funds.

These Broward County deputies, each facing separate charges, have been accused of a range of crimes, as outlined in court records. The majority are facing charges related to wire fraud, which can lead to a prison sentence of up to 20 years. However, one deputy is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, carrying a maximum sentence of five years.

In response to these allegations, Sheriff Gregory Tony announced during a news conference that all eight law enforcement deputies and nine detention deputies involved have been suspended from their duties. He further stated that his office is in the process of taking legal steps to terminate their employment. “At the end of the day, they will be gone,” emphasized Sheriff Tony.

Collectively, the deputies stand accused of defrauding two federal relief programs: the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, leading to an estimated loss of approximately $500,000.

Markenzy Lapointe, the U.S. attorney for the southern district of Florida, condemned their actions, saying, “No matter the amount, we will not allow limited federal tax dollars, which were intended to provide a lifeline to small businesses as they struggled to stay afloat during the economically devastating pandemic lockdown, to be swindled by those who were employed in a position of trust and cast aside their duty to uphold and abide by the law.”

Sheriff Tony revealed that the investigation into these allegations commenced in late 2021, prompted by emerging trends in pandemic relief fraud within public service agencies and a tip suggesting that some of his employees might have been involved in such schemes.

As part of their investigation, the Broward Sheriff’s Office identified about 100 employees who had applied for COVID-19 relief loans. Subsequently, they handed the case over to the U.S. attorney’s office and the Federal Reserve Board.

In addressing the issue, Sheriff Tony expressed his commitment to maintaining an organization built on transparency and accountability. He stated, “For five years, I’ve maintained an organization committed to transparency and accountability. I will continue to expect integrity and commitment to excellence from every BSO employee.”

The U.S. attorney’s office, under the leadership of Markenzy Lapointe, is actively pursuing the investigation into possible fraud, ensuring that those responsible are held accountable for their actions.

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is a significant federal initiative aimed at providing forgivable small-business loans, amounting to billions of dollars, to Americans facing economic challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

These funds are intended for use in covering employee salaries, mortgage interest, rent, and utilities. The program was established as part of the federal response to the pandemic, becoming law in 2020. Additionally, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program was created to offer economic relief to small businesses experiencing temporary revenue losses during these challenging times.

The investigation and legal proceedings continue as authorities work to ensure justice is served in cases of pandemic relief fund misappropriation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.