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$70B in PPP and COVID-19 disaster loans from SBA paid to fraudsters, fake business owners

Florida man's ID used to scam the SBA
Kraig-Key-and-wife-WFTS.jpg
Posted at 7:09 PM, Apr 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-02 19:09:32-04

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) has doled out hundreds of billions of dollars in COVID-19 pandemic relief to businesses in Florida and across the country. But a government watchdog found more than $70 billion may have been lost to fraudulent claims.

Kraig Key discovered a thief used his identity to apply for one of the loans. Key says all his personal information including his Social Security number wound up on an application for a PPP loan filed with the Small Business Administration last fall.

Key, who has worked as an engineer with the same company for the last 20 years, says he's never applied for a pandemic relief small business loan. But in 2020, he began receiving statements showing he owes $7,000 to the SBA.

“It's kind of shocking when you actually see it in print,” Key said.

The SBA’s own watchdog report, released last October, says the agency may have paid over $70 billion in fraudulent and ineligible pandemic relief loans.

“To expedite the process, SBA 'lowered the guardrails' or relaxed internal controls, which significantly increased the risk of program fraud,” the report stated.

Congressman Gus Bilirakis says a congressional oversight committee is working to ensure the SBA implements anti-fraud controls.

“There needs to be multi-level verification there's no question,” he said.

The SBA responded to an email. In a statement, the agency wrote, “New enhanced checks put into place by the Biden-Harris administration have intensified system validations used to mitigate the occurrence of fraud."

Keys and his wife Mara say they called the SBA for months, filed a fraud report and contacted lawmakers for help.

“No one helped us; no one told us where to go!” Mara said.

After contacting the SBA on Kraig Keys' behalf, the agency contacted him saying the issue would be resolved, Keys said.

If you or anyone you know suspects fraud related to a PPP or a disaster relief loan contact OIG’s Hotline at 800-767-0385 or online at https://www.sba.gov/about-sba/oversight-advocacy/office-inspector-general/office-inspector-general-hotline.

This article was written by Jackie Callaway for WFTS.