Seventeen New York City municipal employees — including seven from the NYPD and one MTA employee — were arrested in separate COVID-19 relief programs that earned them more than $1.5 million in federal funding, prosecutors said Wednesday .
Some of the conspirators allegedly spent the fraudulently obtained cash on gambling or on stocks, furniture and electronics, according to criminal complaints unsealed in Manhattan federal court.
The scams focused on the US Small Business Administration’s often-abused Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, which was designed to help those struggling during the pandemic.
In the alleged master scheme, ringleader Rodney Smith, 54, is accused of conspiring to submit fraudulent applications – many claim to be on behalf of hair and nail salons – through the SBA program in 2020. The various applications claimed similar numbers of employees and revenue, prosecutors said.
The eight applicants now charged include five NYPD employees, an MTA employee, a city human resources officer and an individual who worked for a Big Apple-based nonprofit.
They made between $52,000 and $60,000 a pop — and then paid Smith and others thousands in kickbacks, one complaint claims. In all, Smith is suspected of being involved in 95 fraudulent applications that investigators linked to him through an IP address linked to his Brooklyn home.
He now faces charges of wire fraud conspiracy, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.
In separate complaints, 10 others were charged — including three employees from the Department of Education, two NYPD employees, an employee from the city Department of Transportation, an employee from the Administration of Children’s Services and a current and former employee from the Department of Corrections.
The alleged scammers applied for the EIDL and the federal Payment Protection Program by inflating revenue for existing businesses or declaring businesses that did not exist, court documents claimed.
Some applicants falsely claimed to have employees and then used the proceeds for stock investments and “luxury clothing items,” prosecutors claimed.
IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Thomas Fattorusso said in a statement the arrests were intended to “send a clear message”.
“No one is above the law, and while the pandemic has faded from the headlines, the IRS-CI’s commitment to bringing those who defrauded these programs to justice remains steadfast,” Fattorusso said.
Damian Williams, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, called the alleged plans “offensive”.
“The scheme to seal off government funds designed to help small businesses survive a national emergency is offensive,” he said in a statement.
“And as public servants, these people should have known better. This office will continue to prosecute those who line their pockets with taxpayer money through fraud.”
The following people have been charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud alongside Smith, each charge carrying a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison:
- Sheron Charles, 56, of Queens, worked for a non-profit organization
- Denise Gant, 52, Brooklyn, NYPD
- Priscilla Jackson, 41, Brooklyn, MTA
- Yolanda Lawrence, 48, Human Resources Brooklyn, NYC
- Yolanda Ratcliff, 48, Inwood, NYPD
- Zhane Ratcliff, 27, Brooklyn, NYPD
- Phya Scott, 51, Brooklyn, NYPD
- Ebony Simon, 45, Brooklyn, NYPD
The following people have been charged with wire fraud, which carries a prison sentence of up to 20 years:
- Brandon Boyle, 31, New York, worked for the NYPD
- Delilah Cummings, 37, Brooklyn Department of Education, NYC
- Vashawn Foreman, 40, Queens, DOE
- Trevor Gordon, 66, Brooklyn, Correctional Facility (retired)
- Dione Hall, 55, Queens
- Toni McCullough, 39, Brooklyn, DOE
- Jarod Ottley, 57, Valley Stream, New York, NYC Department of Transportation
- Ronette Short, 40, Brooklyn, NYC Child Care Administrator
- Edwin Skepple, 40, West Nyack, New York, Correctional Facility
- Walter Susswell, 28, Queens, NYPD
https://nypost.com/2022/11/30/nypd-workers-among-17-busted-in-fraudulent-loan-scheme/ NYPD employees among 17 NYC employees arrested in $1.5 million COVID aid scam