Seventeen Florida law enforcement deputies have been accused of COVID relief fraud, according to a Thursday press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Florida.
The deputies fraudulently took money from the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan programs, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported, citing officials.
Eight of the accused were from law enforcement and nine worked in the department of detention.
The 17 defendants are accused of stealing a total of $495,171 from the aid programs, the outlet reported.
The individuals have been suspended, Sheriff Gregory Tony told reporters, according to the Associated Press.
“At the end of the day, they will be gone,” Tony said.
He further revealed his office opened an investigation into their 5,600 employees in late 2021 after receiving a tip that some of his employees may have been participating in pandemic relief fraud.
“Today’s announcement is a reminder that the South Florida Strike Force remains fully committed to its mission – to combat and prevent COVID-19 related financial fraud,” said Markenzy Lapointe, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida.
The Office of the Inspector General of the Small Business Administration estimated in a June 27 report that over $200 billion in COVID-19 relief funds could have been lost due to fraud.