Two former employees at a New York bank branch conspired with an accountant to fraudulently apply for over $3 million in COVID relief loans, prosecutors said in a case unsealed Friday.
Why it matters: It's believed to be the first COVID-related fraud case brought against bank employees who attempted to exploit federal pandemic loan programs, according to Reuters.
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Anuli Okeke, formerly a branch manager at a major financial institution in New York, worked with Charlene Wint, a supervisor at the same branch, and tax preparer Hashim Campbell to provide false tax documents and help borrowers submit Paycheck Protection Program applications that contained false information.
They along with unnamed co-conspirators received kickbacks once the borrowers secured the loan proceeds.
Wint and Campbell have pleaded guilty. Okeke made an initial appearance before a U.S. magistrate judge and was released on a $100,000 bond.
What they're saying: "As alleged, the defendants plotted to steal millions in funds that were specifically earmarked by Congress to provide emergency assistance to small businesses and vulnerable workers during a global pandemic and time of great economic hardship," Acting U.S. Attorney Kasulis said in a statement.
"Together with our law enforcement partners, this Office will vigorously prosecute defendants who shamelessly seek to enrich themselves by taking advantage of government programs that are designed to help those in need during the COVID crisis."
The big picture: Over 500 defendants face charges for similar fraud schemes, per Reuters.
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