Farms in downtown Orlando? Some residents receive invoices for loans under the CARES Act that they did not apply for – WFTV
ORLANDO, Florida – As so many people in our community struggled during the pandemic, crooks collected an estimated $ 80 billion in taxes by taking advantage of the CARES Act loan programs.
Channel 9 investigative reporter Karla Ray cleaned up federal data and easily identified over 100 potential fraud cases by looking for a single type of business here in central Florida.
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This is done to the detriment of real people whose names and addresses have been used for bogus loans.
The Small Business Administration kept spreadsheets of everyone who applied for economic injury disaster loans, and 9 investigators used these documents to research a type of business that is not too common here at Orlando: the farms.
“I just laughed,” owner Lisa Sconyers said. “What are you doing? It’s pretty funny.
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Lisa Sconyers lives near Delaney Park, a short walk from Boone High School.
“There are no farms here. I think some neighbors may have chickens, but there are no farms here, ”Sconyers said.
Sconyers don’t know the first thing about farming. So when she started receiving invoices in the mail from the SBA under the trade name Richy’s Pig Farm, she knew it was a fraud.
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“Immediately,” Sconyers said.
Sconyers’ address for nearly two decades was used by a scammer to apply for an EIDL loan through the SBA. The invoices now sent to him total more than $ 72,000.
“It is very frustrating. It makes me lose faith in the system that was supposed to save small businesses when the economy was struggling, ”Sconyers said.
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She is far from alone.
“At first I thought it was junk mail, then when I looked at it I thought it was some kind of fraud,” Dr Harun Fakioglu said.
Fakioglu is a pediatric cardiologist at Arnold Palmer Hospital, but someone used his name and address to set up a fake farm and cash a loan of almost $ 95,000.
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“I am a doctor and I see what people go through. I know businesses are affected, ”Fakioglu said. “But there still needs to be checks and balances on how you spend that money to try to stop fraud.”
9 Investigates analyzed thousands of loan applications through a federal database and discovered more than 100 fake farms in central Florida alone. This is just a bogus type of business used to embezzle taxpayer dollars.
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“It’s not too surprising to me,” said CPA Adam Markowitz of our results.
Markowitz described a perfect storm of an unprepared SBA and an effort to get as much aid to the economy as quickly as possible.
A recent note from the House Special Subcommittee on the COVID-19 Crisis shows that up to $ 79 billion in potentially fraudulent EIDL claims were paid over the past year.
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“The CARES Act went into effect on March 27, 2020, and it started paying EIDL money four days later, and PPP money three days later,” Markowitz said.
Sconyers stopped calling the SBA because they couldn’t communicate with a real person. We also couldn’t get in touch with anyone on his behalf.
“How does someone get $ 72,500?” How do you get this? It’s not like it’s $ 10,000 or even $ 5,000. It’s over $ 70,000. How is it even possible to have so much fraud? Sconyers said.
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Payments of $ 354 billed to its home state are due as of August.
“I know what my debts are, I know what I owe and I know I never pay this. It never happens, ”she said. “You gave this money without checking or doing any due diligence, and it’s theirs.”
The bottom line is that you don’t need to pay if you haven’t applied or received money, but you should expect it to take some time to get sorted out. The Office of the Inspector General is currently reviewing 1.34 million EIDL fraud claims and payments, including nearly 750,000 referrals for potential identity theft.
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