Probe finds about $2B in stimulus check fraud

About two years after stimulus checks were first provided to those eligible, the IRS is continuing to crack down on businesses and people that committed fraud to obtain the money.

The IRS Criminial Investigation (IRS-CI) announced on Wednesday that they found a total of $1.8 billion in alleged COVID fraud after investigating 660 tax and money laundering cases.

“These cases included a broad range of criminal activity, including fraudulently obtained loans, credits and payments meant for American workers, families, and small businesses,” the IRS-CI statement said.

IRS-CI Chief Jim Lee said that it is unfortunate that so many people tried to “take advantage” of the stimulus checks during the COVID-19 pandemic and added that they will face consequences for their crimes.

“The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law nearly two years ago as a safety net for Americans in light of an unprecedented health crisis,” Lee said. “Unfortunately, even during times of crisis, criminals pop their heads out to look for ways to take advantage of those in their most vulnerable state.

“Thanks to the investigative work of IRS-CI special agents and our law enforcement partners, we’ve ensured criminals who try to defraud CARES Act programs face consequences for their actions.”

The IRS-CI statement went on to give a number of example cases where people stole millions of dollars in COVID-relief funds, including a San Fernando Valley family that was found guilty in November 2021 for “crimes ranging from bank and wire fraud to aggravated identity theft.”

“The family used stolen and fictitious identities to submit 150 fraudulent applications for COVID-relief funds based on phony payroll records and tax documents to the Small Business Administration, and then used the funds they received to purchase luxury homes, gold coins, jewelry designer handbags and more,” according to the IRS-CI statement.

They stole more than $20 million in their scheme, as Richard Ayvazyan was ordered to serve 17 years in prison, his wife, Marietta Terabelian, was sentenced to six years, and his brother, Artur Ayvazyan, was ordered to serve five years in federal prison .

The IRS-CI statement added that there is a 100% conviction rate for prosecuted cases involving COVID-relief fund fraud.

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