IRS employees rip off COVID relief programs, splurge on trips, shopping sprees, DOJ alleges
With a combined $418,125 in fraudulently obtained loans, agency employees allegedly treated themselves to everything from fine jewelry, spa visits and Gucci accessories to a Mercedes and jaunts to Vegas.
The Golden Horseshoe is a weekly designation from Just The News intended to highlight egregious examples of wasteful taxpayer spending by the government. The award is named for the horseshoe-shaped toilet seats for military airplanes that cost the Pentagon a whopping $640 each back in the 1980s.
This week's Golden Horseshoe is awarded to the SBA for approving more than $400,000 in COVID relief loans to five current or former IRS employees who allegedly used the proceeds to purchase spa services, cars, jewelry and travel, according to the Department of Justice.
The IRS employees — one former and four current — allegedly submitted fraudulent loan applications through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) programs in schemes seeking to obtain a combined $1.1 million in loans, the government spending watchdog OpenTheBooks.com reported.
The five alleged fraudsters were approved for a combined $418,125 in loans, individually receiving between $27,550 and $171,400.
The individuals charged were: Brian Saulsberry, 46, of Memphis; Courtney Quinshe Westmoreland, 38 of Cordova, Tenn.; Fatina Hewitt, 35, of Olive Branch, Miss.; Roderick DeMarco White II, 27, of Memphis; and Tina Humes, 56, of Memphis.
According to the DOJ:
- Saulsberry obtained $171,400 in loan funds and purchased a Mercedes-Benz.
- Hewitt scored $28,900 in loans and purchased Gucci clothing and a trip to Las Vegas.
- With more than $66,000 in illicit loan proceeds, White purchased personal items, including a Gucci bag.
- With $123,612 in ill-gotten funds, Humes splurged on jewelry and trips to Last Vegas.
- Westmoreland treated herself to manicures, massages and luxury clothing with more than $11,000 in fraudulent pandemic loans finagled through multiple PPP and EIDL program applications for a purported apparel business. She also allegedly submitted fraudulent unemployment insurance benefit applications to the Tennessee Department of Labor while she was a full-time IRS employee, snagging another $16,050 in UI benefits.
The inspector generals for both the IRS and SBA investigated the fraudulent loans.
"We will continue to aggressively pursue IRS employees who breach the public trust, safeguarding the integrity of the IRS," said Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George, whose office's mission includes investigating allegations of crime committed by IRS employees.
"It is especially egregious when individuals that hold positions of public trust engage in criminal activity," said Small Business Administration Inspector General Hannibal "Mike" Ware. "OIG is a ready partner in safeguarding the integrity of SBA's programs and in bringing wrongdoers to justice."