Avon Park SBA Loan Fraud Victim: “Our Taxes Are Stolen”
AVON PARK, Fla. (WFLA) – Retired detective Robert Crews rekindled his law enforcement skills to stop a fraudulent $ 155,000 COVID-19 relief loan and prevent his Social Security number and his name to become further entangled in a multibillion dollar fraud scheme.
Crews, 71, of Avon Park, was alerted to a “full investigation” into his credit report for a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan he never requested – an indicator of fraud remains active in the Economic Disaster Lending (EIDL) program to keep businesses afloat during the pandemic.
But fake companies, including several canister farms in Tampa, get a slice of the $ 190 billion pie, according to a report from the Office of the Inspector General of the SBA which reported over $ 78 billion in potentially fraudulent loans.
“The nightmare started last Monday,” Crews said. “First I find out that someone has changed my email address. Experian informed me that a “serious investigation” from the SBA had been received that morning and that it was an emergency loan from their Texas office. “
Teams spent two days contacting credit bureaus to “lock down” their files. He also found out from the SBA that the loan application in his name included a routing number that is not connected to his bank, offering a potential clue as to who actually received the money.
The 37-year-old Highland County Sheriff’s Office veteran said the process of clearing his name had taken a lot of “stress” out of him, but he is hopeful other victims go to the federal government as well.
“Hopefully if federal agencies get enough reports, they’ll make it a priority to put these criminals out,” Crews said. “Our taxpayer’s money is being stolen by unscrupulous people who only care about themselves and not the millions of people who need help. “
While Crews foiled the loan before the money was transferred, a 8 Investigate your side in several phony farms alerted dozens of others who did not know their information was being used for loans.
Several other residents of the Tampa Bay area received bills advising them that they had to start paying back the money they had not requested.
SBA spokeswoman Kathy Cook of the agency’s Atlanta-based disaster assistance office said there were “checks and balances in place” to guard against fraud , but she would not provide details.
With the House Small Business Committee Approving another $ 50 billion emergency pandemic aid, Representative Gus Bilirakis said Congress would pressure the SBA to tighten its fraud prevention process.
“There is going to be a law,” Bilirakis said. “Some people make mistakes, but what is happening here is unacceptable.”