TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Over a dozen sworn law enforcement officers within the Broward County Sheriff’s Office were charged with defrauding the federal government’s COVID-19 Paycheck Protection Program.
The program was intended to issue low-interest loans to small businesses to cover payroll and other costs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The proceeds of the loans were not to be used to purchase consumer goods, automobiles, personal residences, clothing, jewelry, or for cosmetic surgery,” U.S. Attorney Markenzy Lapointe. said, announcing charges against 17 BSO employees.
“The wheels of justice turn slowly, but turn they do,” Lapointe added. “When individuals take advantage of government programs intended to provide relief to people in need… the federal government will come after you whether it be in a year, two years, or five years — There is a reconning.”
Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony assigned his detectives to investigate all 5,500 BSO employees, including himself and all high-ranking officials to determine if any fraudulent PPP loans were filed.
The initial investigation identified nearly 100 employees who applied to the Paycheck Protection Program, which is not illegal in itself, but ultimately found 17 employees who were accused of providing false information for eligibility.
The 17 officers, which consisted of one sergeant and seven other members from the Department of Law Enforcement, and one sergeant and eight other detention deputies with the Department of Corrections, collectively received $500,000 in fraudulent loans, Lapointe said.
“Some of them were good officers, but you’re only as good as the last act and conduct that you execute,” Sheriff Tony said. “So if you’re going to be participating in criminal activities, we don’t want you here.”