Seven Chicago-area residents got $16M in fraudulent COVID-19 relief funds: feds
CHICAGO - Seven Chicago-area residents have been indicted for allegedly obtaining at least $16 million in fraudulent COVID-19 relief loans for various businesses they claimed to own and operate in Illinois and Florida, federal prosecutors said.
Maja Nikolic, 34, of Brookfield, Marko Nikolic, 34, of La Grange, Nebojsa Simeunovic, 37, of Lyons, Mijajlo Stanisic, 33, of Willowbrook, Branko Aleksic, 33, of Chicago, Milica Sumakovic, 31, of Chicago, and Dorde Todorovic, 32, of Chicago, were each charged with wire fraud and money laundering, according to an indictment announced Thursday by the U.S attorney’s office.
In the spring and summer of 2020, each of the defendants allegedly submitted Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) applications that contained false statements about their businesses — including information about the number of purported employees, revenue amounts, and other expenses, according to an indictment announced Thursday by the U.S attorney’s office.
The EIDL program, a source of relief under the CARES Act, was created to provide loan assistance or grants to cover working capital and other operating expenses amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
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Millions of dollars of fraudulently obtained EIDL loans and grants were allegedly disbursed by the Small Business Administration to bank accounts controlled by the defendants and others, the indictment said.
The defendants then allegedly used the money to make cash withdrawals and transfers for their own personal benefit, prosecutors said.
Each wire fraud and money laundering charge is punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison, according to prosecutors.
Arraignments in federal court in Chicago have not yet been scheduled.
Anyone with information about attempted fraud involving COVID-19 is asked to report it to the Department of Justice by calling the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or file an online complaint at https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.