Middle District of Florida task force continues to combat COVID-19 fraud


Date: July 12, 2023

Contact: newsroom@ci.irs.gov

Tampa, FL — United States Attorney Roger B. Handberg announces the results achieved by the Middle District of Florida's efforts to combat fraud related to COVID-19. Those efforts have included complementary actions by the United States Attorney's Office's (USAO-MDFL) Criminal, Asset Recovery, Appellate, and Civil Divisions, along with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.

"The Middle District of Florida United States Attorney's Office continues to pursue, investigate, prosecute, and recover money from those who were engaged in major or sophisticated fraud schemes designed to steal benefits intended for Americans coping with the myriad impacts of the pandemic," said U.S. Attorney Roger Handberg.

On the criminal enforcement front, the USAO-MDFL and federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies combined resources in March 2020 to form the Middle District of Florida COVID-19 Fraud Task Force to identify, investigate, and prosecute fraud related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Since its inception, the Task Force has prosecuted 67 defendants for fraud schemes designed to exploit federal programs including the Paycheck Protection Program ("PPP"), Economic Injury Disaster Loans ("EIDL"), Unemployment Insurance ("UI"), the Main Street Lending Program ("MSLP"), the Emergency Rental Assistance Program ("ERAP"), as well as government Healthcare programs such as Medicare ("HCF"). Collectively, these defendants sought to defraud the United States of over $78 million. Forty-seven of those defendants have been found guilty, while prosecution remains pending against 20 defendants. (See chart below for criminal case details.)

For example, in April 2023, former Jacksonville Sheriff's Office Corrections Officer Deconna Burke was charged with wire fraud relating to an alleged scheme to obtain a PPP loan for a nonexistent babysitting business.

And in June 2023, Timothy and Lisa Jolloff were charged in a scheme relating to EIDL and PPP applications submitted by Timothy Jolloff between April and May 2020. Timothy Jolloff's false and fraudulent representations caused the SBA and a PPP lender to approve and fund 11 EIDLs and 6 PPP loans, totaling approximately $2.14 million. Timothy Jolloff and his wife, Lisa Jolloff, allegedly used the funds to purchase three pontoon boats, real estate in Indiana, home furnishings, outdoor kitchens for their homes, a 2020 Polaris UTV, as well as jewelry, and two dogs. The couple also fraudulently used more than $600,000 in EIDL funds to purchase a furniture business in Indiana and a landscaping business in Sarasota, which had no connection to the businesses for which the couple had obtained COVID relief funds.

As a result of the USAO-MDFL's Appellate Division's advocacy, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the convictions and sentence of Casey David Crowther, who had been found guilty in Ft. Myers of bank fraud, making a false statement to a lending institution, and two counts of money laundering in connection with his PPP loan scheme. Crowther had obtained a $2.1 million PPP loan by stating that he intended to use the money for payroll, rent, and utilities for his company, Target Roofing and Sheet Metal, but, according to the evidence at trial, he instead had his bank deposit the money into a secret account separate from his company's main operating account. He quickly used the account for personal use, spending nearly $700,000 on a 40-foot pleasure boat and $55,000 on a horse. When Crowther's bank warned him that he was likely to be audited, he attempted to conceal his fraud by falsely "hiring" family members and dozens of fictitious employees to inflate his company's apparent payroll.

The U.S. Attorney General has established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud.

Through the PPP, the federal government authorized over $600 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses for job retention and certain other expenses through the PPP. The EIDL program provides economic relief to small businesses that are currently experiencing a temporary loss of revenue. The MSLP provided support to small and medium-sized businesses and their employees across the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic. UI programs provided unemployment benefits to eligible workers who became unemployed through no fault of their own.

The criminal cases charged by the Middle District of Florida COVID-19 Fraud Task Force have been investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Secret Service, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, the Department of Labor—Office of Inspector General, the U.S. Postal Service, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the Small Business Administration, the Small Business Administration—Office of Inspector General, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation—Office of Inspector General, Homeland Security Investigations, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery, Federal Reserve Board—Office of Inspector General, Department of Health and Human Services—Office of Inspector General, the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation, the Tampa Police Department, the Orlando Police Department, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, the Manatee County Sheriff's Office, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office, the Winter Park Police Department, the Osceola County Sheriff's Office, the Seminole County Sheriff's Office, and the Orange County Sheriff's Office. The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys throughout the Middle District of Florida.