An Atlanta man has been indicted on federal charges of money laundering and wire fraud in connection with funds allegedly obtained fraudulently through a COVID-19 relief program.
Austin Martin Siampwizi, 46, is accused of laundering money procured from fraudulent unemployment claims filed with the Washington State Employment Security Department. The claims were submitted using personal information stolen from more than 50 people, according to Ryan Buchanan, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia.
Siampwizi also was charged with wire fraud for allegedly submitting a fraudulent loan application to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), according to an indictment handed down late last month.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act created a temporary federal program that provided up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits for Americans out of work because of the pandemic. The CARES Act also authorized the SBA to offer funding to business owners negatively affected by COVID-19.
“Money launderers used the COVID-19 pandemic to financially benefit while millions of Americans were suffering,” Buchanan said Monday. “We will continue to prosecute individuals who defrauded this program at the expense of vulnerable citizens in need of this critical relief.”
The case is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General, the IRS, the FBI, the federal Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Postal Service.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force in May 2021 to work with other federal agencies to prevent and combat pandemic-related fraud.
This story comes to Rough Draft via a media partnership with Capitol Beat.