Crime /

Street Gang Took Millions In Covid Relief To Fund Guns, Drugs, and Murder-For-Hire Scheme

The DOJ seized more than $1.4 billion in relief money, while charging more than 3,000 defendants

After a nationwide, multi-agency investigation, hundreds of people were charged with the theft of nearly one billion dollars in COVID-19 emergency relief funds.

Following the three-month probe, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed federal criminal charges against 371 defendants for offenses related to more than $836 million in alleged COVID-19 fraud.

“The Justice Department has now seized over $1.4 billion in COVID-19 relief funds that criminals had stolen and charged over 3,000 defendants with crimes in federal districts across the country,” Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said in a joint statement. “This latest action, involving over 300 defendants and over $830 million in alleged COVID-19 fraud, should send a clear message: the COVID-19 public health emergency may have ended, but the Justice Department’s work to identify and prosecute those who stole pandemic relief funds is far from over.”

According to the DOJ, many of the cases involve charges related to unemployment insurance benefit fraud, the Paycheck Protection Program, and Economic Injury Disaster Loans.

More than 60 of the defendants are alleged to have connections to violent crime and are accused of using pandemic funds to pay for a murder-for-hire scheme, DOJ officials say.

The murder-for-hire case involved alleged members of a Milwaukee gang called the Wild 100s, according to court records reviewed by the Associated Press (AP).

Federal officials charged 30 members of the Wild 100s earlier in the year. Two of the individuals, Ronnell Bowman and Ronnie Jackson, have been accused of orchestrating the murder-for-hire scheme, along with discharging a firearm during a crime of violence and conspiracy to commit offenses related to the possession and sale of firearms, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

Prosecutors say the Wild 100s spent millions of dollars stolen from emergency relief funds on guns, drugs, jewelry, and vacations.

“I applaud the hard work of our prosecutors around the country,” acting director Michael C. Galdo said in the DOJ statement. “However, this announcement is not a victory lap. Our mission is not complete. We know from our investigative partners that identifying those who committed pandemic relief fraud and recovering stolen funds is difficult work. But the Justice Department, including our strike forces, U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, and the Criminal and Civil Divisions, is committed to using our criminal, civil, and forfeiture tools to hold these fraudsters accountable.”

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