Mississippi officials make first arrest for suspected fraudulent use of coronavirus relief funds
A Bolivar County resident is the first in Mississippi to be accused of fraudulently filing the Mississippi Development Authority’s “Back to Business” program, which used federal funds from the CARES Act to help small businesses. State Auditor Shad White said his office worked closely with state agencies and private auditors overseeing funds to identify fraud.
White says, “For the back-to-business program, the state decided to hire a third party to come and see if the money coming out of the door showed any signs of fraud. And Balch & Bingham did catch this case, reported it to us, and then we bared ourselves, checked out the case, and made the arrest.
While the accused asked for about $ 400,000, the party received only about $ 38,000.
White says there’s a lot of cash flow from the federal government to state programs. He says the state will need more boots on the ground to help monitor funding for coronavirus aid.
“So we’re prepared to do it over the next three years, really, because this money is going to be spent over a period of time over that period. On top of that, we are constantly looking for new technological tools that we can use to catch more fraud.
White says his office is also working with other state agencies using and distributing relief funds, and will likely continue to monitor those cash flows for years to come.
“And it’s going to be very tempting for some people, some bad actors, to steal some of that money. They need to know that if they are planning to steal this money, it’s not just the people in their office that they work with that they have to cheat, they are also going to have to cheat on us. They may cheat us for a little while, but they’re not going to cheat us forever. We’ll have you at some point if you decide to steal the raise money. “
White says the use of technology and partnerships with other agencies help ensure funding for coronavirus relief is used properly.