According to a review of spending, Internal Revenue Service employees have been caught steal more than $400,000 in supposed COVID relief funding which they spent on lavish vacations, shopping sprees, and restaurants.
According to government watchdog group Open the Books, five IRS employees were found allegedly submitting fraudulent loan applications through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) programs.
They allegedly submitted bogus loan applications, gaming the system to lavish themselves with luxury goods, spa services, cars, clothes, jewelry, and travel, prosecutors allege. One claimed to run a nonexistent clothing business, and all allegedly filed fraudulent applications.
“These individuals — acting out of pure greed — abused their positions by taking government funds meant for citizens and businesses who desperately needed it,” said U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee Kevin G. Ritz.
The five individuals — three from Memphis, one from Cordova, Tennessee and one from Olive Branch, Mississippi — were each charged with wire fraud, and one was charged with money laundering, the DOJ said.
The funds were spent on a Mercedes-Benz, Gucci and other luxury clothing, jewelry, a trip to Las Vegas, manicures, and massages. Some money was deposited into a personal investment account.
Each person collected between $27,550 and $171,400, the DOJ said.
The DOJ added:
- Saulsberry obtained $171,400 in loan funds and purchased a Mercedes-Benz.
- Hewitt scored $28,900 in loans and purchased Gucci clothing and a trip to Las Vegas.
- With more than $66,000 in illicit loan proceeds, White purchased personal items, including a Gucci bag.
- With $123,612 in ill-gotten funds, Humes splurged on jewelry and trips to Last Vegas.
- Westmoreland treated herself to manicures, massages and luxury clothing with more than $11,000 in fraudulent pandemic loans finagled through multiple PPP and EIDL program applications for a purported apparel business. She also allegedly submitted fraudulent unemployment insurance benefit applications to the Tennessee Department of Labor while she was a full-time IRS employee, snagging another $16,050 in UI benefits.