Hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal money, meant to help preserve jobs during the COVID pandemic, instead went to suspects already charged with felonies in Will County, police and prosecutors say, with some possibly using the money to pay their bonds.
Joliet Police Chief Bill Evans says his department targeted 25 individuals who were part of a fraud scheme meant to get Payroll Preservation Program checks while not operating any real businesses.
The goal of the program, he said, was to reduce the number of firearms and narcotocs offenses on the streets of Joliet.
The sting, which involved agencies from Homeland Security to the U.S. Department of Labor to the Will County State's Attorney’s Office, was known as “Operation Triple P.”
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“This is like the pandemic,” said Homeland Security Special Agent in Charge Sean Fitzgerald. “ It’s absolutely everywhere as well.”
Each loan, detectives said, was for between 19 and 20-thousand dollars, costing taxpayers upwards of $500,000.
“Some of the targets being investigated today were in custody and used jail phones to complete the fraudulent PPP loan process,” Evans said.
A number of those implicated in the scheme managed to bond out of jail shortly after their PPP payments arrived, said James Kilgore, a Joliet Police detective investigating the case.
Of the 25 people targeted, 15 are in custody and10 are still wanted.
They all face charges including wire fraud, theft and loan fraud, and Joliet police say their investigation is not over.
“These are just the first 25 targets,” Kilgore said.