(YAHOO) – The Department of Justice says it has charged dozens of people who tried to steal more than $175 million in federal aid meant to help small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a press conference on Thursday, the Justice Department announced it has now charged 57 people with Paycheck Protection Program-related fraud since May – in addition to other cases brought by U.S. attorneys around the country.
Congress approved about $670 billion for the program, which allowed small businesses to seek forgivable loans in order to avoid layoffs and stay afloat during the pandemic. The Small Business Administration made 5.2 million loans, worth more than $525 billion through the program.
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"Any time the federal government makes a large amount of money available to the public on an expedited basis, the opportunities for fraud are unfortunately clear," said Brian Rabbitt, Acting Assistant Attorney of the Criminal Division.