5 charged with defrauding pandemic relief programs

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Five current or former Internal Revenue Service workers have been charged with fraud for illegally getting money from federal COVID-19 relief programs and using a total of $1 million for luxury items and personal trips, prosecutors said.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Memphis said Tuesday that the five have been charged with wire fraud after they filed fake applications for the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program, which were part of a federal stimulus package tied to the pandemic response.

The five defendants then individually used the funds to pay for a Mercedes-Benz car, manicures, massages, luxury clothing, jewelry, a Gucci bag and Gucci clothing, and trips to Las Vegas, prosecutors said.

Three of the IRS workers already have pleaded guilty to wire fraud, which carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison. Four are from the Memphis area, and another lives in Olive Branch, Mississippi, prosecutors said.