Sources: Feds investigating PPP kickback scheme involving up to 100 Mount Vernon city employees
A federal investigation is underway regarding a possible kickback scheme allegedly involving up to 100 Mount Vernon city employees, according to News 12 sources.
Officials in law enforcement tell News 12 the scheme involves about 100 city employees - including 25 police officers - who were allegedly involved in a get-rich-quick scheme.
They say it all started with a plan to cheat the Paycheck Protection Program over the past few months. There were people allegedly lying on applications, and saying they were business owners in need of the financial support during the pandemic.
The idea is that an employee would give their personal information to one of their colleagues who was leading the scheme. That colleague would do the paperwork, helping to apply for a loan around $10,000.
Once the money came in, that leader would get a portion of it as a kickback.
While the involvement allegedly spans across all different departments, Commissioner Glenn Scott said no federal agents have come to the police department in Mount Vernon.
Sources in law enforcement tell News 12 that the activities date all the way back to April.
They say the FBI has been investigating for at least the last two months.
A Mount Vernon firefighter who wished to remain anonymous says someone in the department reached out about the alleged scheme but turned it down after he felt "it was too good to be true."
He adds, "The scheme involved turning over Social Security and bank account numbers to get the money," and said the idea of kicking back half the money was "definitely a red flag" and "something that didn't seem right."
The person included that "people understood something was potentially bad," but pure greed got people into trouble.
The source says two people in particular were spearheading the effort to recruit other firefighters into this alleged scheme.
He believes at least a dozen firefighters - if not more - may be involved but adds they did not know the organizer was setting up fake businesses in their names.
Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard says she knew nothing about this and still knows nothing.
She says her office has not received any calls from the federal government, the state or the county about an investigation.
Patterson-Howard says she spoke with police and fire officials and they also haven’t been contacted by authorities or heard about anyone being investigated. As of Monday afternoon, Police Commissioner Glenn Scott said no federal agents had come by.
“Right now, all we have is innuendo and rumor and based on innuendo and rumor, if it’s true, it’s disheartening. We’ve spoken to people and no one has gotten any notice. No one has turned themselves in. Right now, we have nothing to hide from, and nothing to respond to.” she says.
The mayor says her office is looking into the incident.
In the meantime, the mayor is scheduled to give her State of the City address Wednesday night.