Pandemic posers plunder COVID programs

If these grifts, flim-flams and cons get any worse, the FBI may have to shift over some agents from their two largest criminal divisions – the ones charged with framing Republicans and with surveilling angry parents who go to local school board meetings.

When the Panic was being ginned up in 2020, the feds set up so-called COVID-19 “relief” programs. Suddenly the government was indiscriminately doling out hundreds of billions, if not trillions, of dollars to people adversely affected by the government’s hysterical Faucist overreactions.

How typical is that: the government creates a problem, then throws money to ameliorate the pain their own disastrous policies created.

In the case of COVID welfare, though, the feds may as well have blown a dog whistle that only fraudsters could hear, because some days it seems like half the population has worked one sort of scam or another with one or another of these eminently scammable programs.

From reading indictments, I have learned about, among other things, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. And Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which is not to be confused with the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). And don’t forget the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF), the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) or the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program.

Economic injury? All the above hustles, and no doubt others, have been ripped off more than somewhat. To put it in local terms, Monica Cannon-Grant was not the only hustler who seen her opportunities and took ‘em.

If these grifts, flim-flams and cons get any worse, the FBI may have to shift over some agents from their two largest criminal divisions – the ones charged with framing Republicans and with surveilling angry parents who go to local school board meetings.

Let’s go over some recent COVID scam headlines, this one from Connecticut:

“Indictment Charges Former State Rep, 3 Others, with Stealing West Haven’s COVID Relief Funds.”

In case you were wondering, the solon was a Democrat, Michael DiMassa. He also had a hack job with the city when the feds allege he and his fellow Democrats were stealing more than $1.2 million in federal funds.

But this rampant fraud is bipartisan. Take Sean Pierre Jackson, a failed West Palm Beach Republican defender of Gov. Ron DeSantis. He’s just been accused of bilking the feds out of $816,000.

I always wonder how much due diligence due the feds did before they started sending out these six- or seven-figure checks. Jackson described himself as “undoubtedly the quintessential all-American statesman,” so … case closed.

But what about Juliana Martins, 53, of North Providence? This jailbird had already pleaded guilty to fraud before applying for, among other panic-related programs, EIDL, FFCRA and CARES.

At the time of her recidivist grift, she was on federal supervised release in a stolen identity refund scheme, as well as on state probation for forgery and counterfeiting. She also neglected to mention her $385,533 restitution order.

“As part of the application process, she provided false explanation as to her gaps in employment while serving her federal sentence, claiming she was unemployed due to a ‘family emergency.’ ”

The feds gave her a $265,109 mortgage.

Then there’s Tiffany Pacheco, a/k/a Tiffany Tavery, age 36, of New Bedford. This one’s on Gov. Charlie Baker, whose Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) hired her “shortly after her release from federal prison following a conviction for aggravated identity theft.”

What could possibly go wrong?

Soon she was submitting “fraudulent PUA claim information on behalf of herself and her husband, Arthur Pacheco, who was incarcerated in Texas and thus ineligible for PUA funds.”

The hack con woman been ordered to repay $199,555, which she grabbed along with her husband and the woman she put in charge of the grift after she was lugged.

COVID fraud became such a robust industry that after she was back in prison, Pacheco could refer her co-conspirator “to a Google Drive account that contained the images of drivers’ licenses and other documents under certain stolen identities.”

Then there’s Lilly Nguyen, 25, of Stoneham. She pleaded guilty to stealing $526,423 in PUA funds from CARE. She got two years for pocketing a half million bucks. Not bad! The odds of her making the restitution ordered by the judge are slim, fat and none.

Meet Moustapha Diakhate, 46, identified by the feds as a resident of Stamford, Conn. He pleaded guilty “to offenses related to receipt of more than $4 million in COVID-19 relief funds.”

Four million bucks! Is this a great country or what, Moustapha?

Keishon Brown, 33, of Providence, is going to prison for stealing $62,084 “in benefits he was not entitled to.”

Not entitled to? Who says Keishon’s not entitled?

Here are some more recent headlines about COVID scammers around New England:

“Boston Man Pleads Guilty to Pandemic Fraud, Identity Theft, Firearm and Drug Offenses.”

“Stoughton Man Arrested for $400,000 COVID-Relief Fraud.”

“Former Keene man Pleads Guilty to Fraudulently Obtaining CARES Act Funds.”

“Springfield Woman Pleads Guilty to Unemployment Fraud Related to COVID-19 Pandemic.”

“East Providence Man Alleged to Have Fraudulently Applied for 8 COVID Relief Business Loans.”

It’s always been said that whatever government taxes, it gets less of. Right now, that would be gainful employment, baby formula and domestic energy.

Conversely, whatever the government subsidizes, it gets more of. In Dementia Joe Biden’s America, that would be fraud.

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