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6 arrested in alleged scheme to fraudulently collect millions in COVID aid meant for renters

SEATTLE (AP) – Six people in Washington, Arizona and Texas have been arrested, federal prosecutors accused of fraudulently obtaining millions of dollars in COVID-19 aid from a renter assistance program, federal prosecutors said. announced that he had been indicted.

US Attorney for the Western District of Washington Nick Brown announced Wednesday an arrest and indictment for wire fraud and money laundering.

The six are accused of making hundreds of fraudulent applications for more than $6.8 million in government aid and receiving more than $3.3 million, according to the Seattle Times. report. Most of the fraud charges occurred in Seattle’s King County and focused on federal emergency rent assistance funds that could be used to prevent evictions, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors say the plan also targeted unemployment systems in Washington, California, South Carolina, and Nevada.

They are accused of spending the money on luxury cars, vacations, designer clothes, jewelry and plastic surgery.

“Participants in this scam have relentlessly abused a pandemic relief program designed to help small businesses and those at risk of eviction,” Brown said in a statement.

Paradise Williams, 29, of Phoenix, Arizona, allegedly spearheaded the scheme, creating fake documents and teaching friends how to pretend to be a landlord or tenant in need of rent assistance, prosecutors said. said. Williams has been charged with 19 counts of wire fraud and two counts of money laundering.

Another person accused of wire fraud and money laundering is Rayvon Peterson, 32, of Seattle. Tia Robinson, 28, from Fife, Washington. Jahari Cunningham, 45, lives in Houston, Texas. Darius Jackson, 37, lives in Bonny Lake, Washington. And David Martinez (32) from Pacific, Washington.

Martinez, Peterson and Jackson pleaded not guilty on Tuesday. Others appear to have yet to make their first court appearances or arraignments, and attempts to find lawyers have been unsuccessful. A lawyer for Martinez did not respond to the newspaper’s request for comment on Wednesday. Lawyers for Jackson and Peterson declined to comment.

Telecom fraud related to declared catastrophes and emergencies, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, is punishable by up to 30 years in prison. Money laundering carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

Fraud was rampant in the pandemic relief program, according to the U.S. Department of Labor inspector general. President Joe Biden’s administration announced in March to continue prosecuting those who commit fraud, create new ways to prevent identity theft, and help those whose identities have been stolen. Asked Congress to approve more than $1.6 billion.

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