The Internal Revenue Service in Montana, Colorado, Wyoming and Idaho has been investigating and prosecuting individuals who took illegal advantage of the CARES Act, the safety net for businesses as the COVID-19 pandemic closed businesses throughout the country.

Supervisory Special Agent Todd Wacaser provided the background for the program and the prosecutions.

“The first round which was on March 27 of 2020 set up $349 billion for the payroll protection program, and then in April of 2020 I believe there was another 300 billion and then in December of 2020, they added another 284 billion so just short of a trillion dollars went into this program,” began Wacaser.

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Wacaser said, as happens with every government program, that many thought they could get away with defrauding the government for their own gain.

“Unfortunately, there were some bad actors that that stole from that program and that directly affected other people who couldn't get loans approved because the programs were out of money,” he said. “In talking to my friends who are still bankers, you know it went very quickly. The money was gone and people that needed it couldn't get it. So, now we're holding those people accountable that were stealing from the American public and from those that really needed the money.”

Wacaser explained the scope of the investigations.

“We’re identifying a number of people that that took advantage of that fraudulently, in that they weren't entitled to those loans,” he said. “They did not use them for the purposes for which they were issued by Congress, and so the IRS, in conjunction with some other law enforcement partners, both state and federal, have taken the effort to prosecute these cases. To date, we've prosecuted 660 tax and money laundering cases to the tune of about $1.8 billion.”

Wacaser said one Montanan, Kasey Wilson from Helena, was prosecuted and sent to federal prison for bank fraud.

“Mr. Wilson is one of those 660 people, and he, like a number of other people, applied for a loan and was granted at least part of it and fraudulently used those proceeds for purposes not allowed under the rules of the program,” he said. “So he pled guilty, and now he's going to spend a little over a year in jail and have to pay back the money that that he that he stole from this program.”

Anyone who may have knowledge of such a crime is asked to contact the IRS by clicking here.

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