The Wall Street Journal reports the federal government is swamped with reports of potential fraud in the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), according to government officials and public data.
Growing evidence suggests that the self-certification vetting process created an opportunity for people to take advantage of the program’s open-door design, the report says.
The SBA’s inspector general found “tens of thousands” of companies that received PPP loans when they were ineligible, the report says. This could include corporations created after the pandemic arrived, businesses that had more than 500 employees and companies that owe the federal government money, hence are named in a do-not-pay database.
Some eligible companies may have received more than they should have.
The FBI has opened several hundred PPP-related investigations that involve almost 500 suspects and hundreds of millions of dollars, the report says. The U.S. Justice Department already has charged 73 defendants in fraud cases related to PPP.
The Treasury Department in September received 2,495 suspicious-activity reports involving business loans from banks and other depository institutions, more than the total for any year dating back to 2014, according to public data.
Many other PPP loans are falling into a gray area in which businesses received one despite seeing revenue increase during the pandemic. Prosecutors are probing some of those cases but finding it difficult to bring charges, in part because Congress set a low bar for obtaining the funds, according to law enforcement officials familiar with the matter.
Prosecutors face hurdles in proving business owners lied when they said they needed money in the pandemic’s chaotic early days—even if profits kept coming in later, officials said.