Report: Gangs used federal Covid assistance money to fuel their criminal activities

by WorldTribune Staff / 247 Real News August 7, 2023

Violent street gangs fueled their criminal activities during the pandemic via the taxpayer-funded Covid assistance programs, a report said.

Authorities say gang members flaunted their ill-gotten riches on social media. / U.S. Department of Justice

“Federal authorities say street gangs, including the Woo gang in Brooklyn, New York, and the Step and Die gang in Shreveport, Louisiana, figured out what Russian and Chinese hackers, Nigerian scammers and regular American grifters knew during the pandemic: that the government was giving out money with little regard to who was asking,” Stephen Dinan reported for The Washington Times on Aug. 6.

The Insane Crip Gang on Long Island in New York, which has been blamed for three slayings, two dozen attempted murders, and a host of other crimes “worked up a fraud manual to help members fabricate businesses, submit pandemic loan applications to the Small Business Administration, defeat the screening software meant to weed out bogus claims and collect the cash,” the report said.

Insane Crip Gang members managed to steal $200,000 in bogus unemployment payouts from the state in one month in 2020.

“They used this money to fund the gang, buy guns and live a lavish lifestyle,” Carolyn Pokorny, first assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in announcing charges against the gang.

“This gang celebrated its violence on social media, using that same social media as a recruiting tool, and financed its activities by systematically stealing from government benefit programs designed to aid the unemployed and those adversely impacted by COVID,” said Anne T. Donnelly, district attorney in Nassau County, New York.

In Louisiana, members of the Step or Die gang posted photos of themselves fanning out cash from pandemic assistance programs and clutching firearms. Authorities say 24 gang members filed more than 40 bogus pandemic business loan applications worth $2.2 million and were paid about $600,000 of that.

In Brooklyn, members of the Woo gang bragged in a music video on YouTube about stealing pandemic unemployment benefits. Prosecutors say the gang used more than 800 stolen identities and filed nearly 1,000 unemployment claims with New York totaling $20 million. They collected $4.3 million.

The gangs took advantage of two of the largest pandemic assistance programs, small-business lending and enhanced unemployment benefits. Those programs are now over, but the gangs have moved on to other government programs such as food stamps and unemployment insurance, said Haywood Talcove, CEO of government at LexisNexis Risk Solutions.

“The benefit programs are providing the capital that these criminal organizations use to invest in their business,” Talcove told The Washington Times.

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