Hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal money, meant to help preserve jobs during the COVID pandemic, instead went to suspects already charged with crimes in Will County, police and prosecutors say, some possibly using be the money to pay their obligations.
Joliet Police Chief Bill Evans said his department targeted 25 people who were part of a fraudulent scheme to obtain payroll preservation program checks without operating genuine businesses.
The goal of the program, he said, was to reduce the number of gun and drug offenses on the streets of Joliet.
The sting, which involved agencies from Homeland Security to the U.S. Department of Labor to the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office, was known as “Operation Triple P.”
“It’s like the pandemic,” Homeland Security Special Agent Sean Fitzgerald said. “It’s absolutely everywhere too.”
Each loan, according to detectives, was between $19 and $20,000, costing taxpayers more than $500,000.
“Some of the targets being investigated today were in custody and used jail phones to carry out the fraudulent PPP loan process,” Evans said.
A number of people involved in the scheme managed to get out of jail soon after their PPP payments arrived, said James Kilgore, a Joliet police detective investigating the case.
Of the 25 people targeted, 15 are in custody and 10 are still wanted.
They all face charges of wire fraud, theft and loan fraud, and Joliet police say their investigation is not over.
“These are just the first 25 targets,” Kilgore said.