If a few billion dollars get carted off by bandits, or chewed into confetti by squirrels, or blown into the nearest river, after a brief chastened look, the Democrats always come back with: “Hey, we think we have a new solution: Spend more money again!” Their latest idea is to upchuck $1.9 trillion (not $2 trillion — they’re not crazy or anything) on yet another COVID relief package.
They’ve already appropriated some $6 trillion in fighting COVID, though. That’s more than we spent fighting WWII, which cost about $4.1 trillion in inflation-adjusted dollars. Unlike in the ’40s, though, we’ve pretty clearly lost World War C. COVID has killed way more people than Hitler and Hirohito did, and unlike the Third Reich, it’s never going to go away. So while we’re getting used to the Forever Virus, we might as well pause for a sec and wonder: What the heck did all that spending buy us?
So far, $100 billion of it has been straight-up stolen, “resulting in the arrest of more than 100 suspects who span the spectrum from individuals to organized groups,” according to a CNBC report. Don’t worry, though, the feds are on the case, and so far they’ve recovered . . . $2.3 billion.
So that’s settled, then, except for the 97.7% unaccounted for, and of course all the stolen billions that we don’t yet know about.
The general urge to “help people” has also created abundant opportunities for subtler forms of fraud. Marilyn Mosby, the state’s attorney in Baltimore, is charged with allegedly falsely claiming COVID hardship to make an early withdrawal of $90,000 from her retirement fund to make down payments on two vacation homes in Florida. Mosby earns $248,000 a year.
Tracking the theft
Since the media aren’t terribly interested in stories that reflect badly on Democrats, you’ll have to poke around to find the alarming truth about just how much stealing is going on in the Age of ’Rona. A novelist who truly took the measure of America this year could write an insanely funny comic novel about all the grifting: Catch ’22. The law firm of Arnold & Porter is compiling details in a database called the CARES Act Fraud Tracker, and every entry looks like a juicy story suitable for splashy treatment in Vanity Fair.
One entry notes that “Apocalypse Bella, Mackenzy Toussaint and Amos Munendi were charged with allegedly submitting fraudulent PPP loan applications seeking approximately $14 million.” Apocalypse Bella! Kevin Hart, call your agent: Don’t you love the idea of playing someone named Apocalypse Bella? Another entry says a college football player named Abdul-Malik McClain used the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program to allegedly bundle together phony claims from other players, taking a cut when the checks came in. Charmaine Redding, meanwhile, allegedly hoovered up $11.1 million in fraudulent Paycheck Protection Program loans, which she used “to purchase luxury vehicles, jewelry and other personal items.”
Ever since the first wave of the horrorvirus passed a year and a half or so ago, Washington has been spraying the country with so much money that the ’20s have brought as much bling as sting. Real human suffering has been accompanied by gushers of spending. There’s a reason why you see your neighbors remodeling their homes and filling their driveways with BMWs. According to a Heritage Foundation analysis, 40% of pandemic unemployment benefits — $357 billion in total — went to people who weren’t actually unemployed.
The part of COVID relief that actually worked amazingly well — Operation Warp Speed — cost a relative pittance, a mere $18 billion. As for the rest? What looks like the greatest heist of government funds in our history is well underway.
The law firm Arnold & Porter maintains an online database of alleged COVID-relief fraud. Here are some of the cases it lists:
Baby Blue,” a k a “Diamond Blue Smith
A member of the music group Pretty Ricky who appears on the show “Love & Hip Hop Miami,” pleaded guilty to participating in a scheme to file at least 79 fraudulent loan applications seeking more than $24 million in forgivable PPP loans. Smith used the loan proceeds to make “luxury purchases,” including a Ferrari for $96,000. “My mistakes don’t define me as a man, and I will come out of this more than I was before,” he said.
The incredibly named “Apocalypse Bella” (a k a Dias Yumba), along with Mackenzy Toussaint and Amos Munendi, was accused of submitting fraudulent PPP loan applications seeking $14 million. He has an Instagram account named the Apocalypse Bella Foundation, which describes its mission as helping “individuals facing socioeconomic hardships further their education at institutions of higher learning.”
April Falgoust pleaded guilty to setting up five fraudulent applications on behalf of the following company names: La Fitness & Tan LLC, FalgouStrong Fitness LLC, Boss Lady Suits, Forever the Baddest Makeup, and Hemphire Seed & Nutrients. She “grossly misrepresented” how many people she employed and what she earned, and collected $500,000 in relief. She was sentenced to 18 months in prison.
Aticha Jittaphol put in applications for Mantra Dhevi Spa in Brighton, Mass., and certified that the business was not engaged in illegal activity despite knowing that it engaged in illegal prostitution, federal prosecutors charge. The US Attorney said, “Jittaphol also actively promoted the prostitution by recruiting employees and attracting new customers.”
Jason Lary, the first-ever mayor of Stonecrest, Ga. (a city that incorporated in 2016 with 59,000 residents), allegedly used some of the $6.2 million the city received in COVID aid to pay off his own taxes and mortgage.
Christopher Paul Lic
Christopher Paul Lic of Starkville, Miss., received more than $6 million in COVID relief for candle companies he owned, but he allegedly spent the money on a $1 million home, a Tesla worth $100,000 and stock-market investments. He faces up to 30 years in prison on 16 federal charges.
Reginald Thornto, an inmate at the Bare Hill Correctional Facility in Malone, NY, allegedly worked with Briana Garland of Uniondale, NY, to receive $30,000 in COVID aid — despite the fact that the incarcerated were not eligible.
Kelli Prather allegedly purported to own six businesses — Enhanced Healthcare Solutions, Life Skills Enhancement, Prather Property Management, Reliable Ambulette Services, Rich Glo Management Services and Tots R Us — and sought more than $600,000 in aid. She allegedly used the money on DoorDash, Michael Kors, Louis Vuitton, Kay Jewelers, vacation activities, liposuction and body contouring.
Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby has been indicted for perjury. Prosecutors allege that she sought a $40,000 withdrawal from her city retirement account in May 2020, citing financial hardship due to the pandemic. But that year her salary was $248,000. She used the money as a down payment for a rental property in Florida.
Elvin German of The Bronx allegedly used the identities of 254 unknowing people to receive more than $1.4 million in COVID aid. Feds said they found him out because he used the same IP address, and the same security question and answer, for each application. That would be the name of his family dog, Benji. He allegedly spent the money on, among other things, a Louis Vuitton wallet and fanny pack.