PPP fraud investigation sees former Cook County correctional officer Jareli Reyes charged in Chicago

Jareli Reyes, a former Cook County Jail guard, is accused of defrauding the federal Paycheck Protection Program that was created to help struggling businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

AP

A former Cook County Jail guard has been charged with defrauding the federal Paycheck Protection Program that was created to help struggling businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jareli Reyes, who resigned from the sheriff’s office last year, obtained approval for a $20,833 PPP loan in April 2021 and for another loan in the same amount the next month — a total of $41,666, according to records from the federal Small Business Administration, which oversaw the program.

On her application, she said was the sole proprietor of a security guard and patrol business.

Reyes, 32, was indicted in Cook County criminal court earlier this month on charges of theft, income-tax fraud and wire fraud in connection with those loans. She couldn’t be reached for comment.

Months after Reyes was given the PPP money in 2021, the Cook County Board voted to give her more than $32,500 for an unrelated worker’s compensation claim in which she said she’d suffered neck and shoulder injuries while trying to break up a fight between Cook County Jail detainees in 2019, records show.

In May 2022, sheriff’s officials learned about Reyes’ PPP loans from the Cook County’s inspector general’s office, which was investigating possible PPP fraud among county workers.

The sheriff’s office investigated and found no record to show Reyes owned a business or that she’d filed any disclosure with the sheriff’s office of any secondary employment, according to Matthew Walberg, a spokesperson for the agency., who said, “The sheriff’s office’s investigation into other potential cases of PPP abuse is ongoing.”

In April 2023, the sheriff’s office forwarded its findings to Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s office, which is handling the case. A Raoul spokesperson said he “is committed to holding accountable individuals who viewed the COVID pandemic as an opportunity for personal enrichment.”

Fraud has been found to be rampant in the PPP program created under then-President Donald Trump and continued by President Joe Biden, with at least $200 billion believed to have been scammed in phony loan applications during the pandemic in 2020 and 2021.

Public officials including cops are among those suspected of defrauding the program. Last fall, Deborah Witzburg, the City Hall inspector generall, said her office found at least 1,000 city workers, including Chicago police officers, got PPP loans, many that she believed were obtained fraudulently.

Last August, two former Chicago cops, Torrey Price and Aaron Price, were charged with bilking the PPP program of more than $2 million. They’re awaiting trial on federal charges.

Two Illinois State Police officers — a master trooper and a special agent, or detective — are suspected of PPP fraud and face disciplinary charges filed against them March 4 with the Illinois State Police Merit Board, the Chicago Sun-Times reported last week. The master trooper was relieved of duty on Feb. 9 and the special agent on Feb. 14. A state police spokesperson said the two are also subjects of an ongoing criminal investigation.

PPP fraud
One said he ran a “babysitting” company. The other described himself as a “handyman.” The Illinois State Police filed complaints against them with a disciplinary board, and a criminal investigation is ongoing.
Torrey Price retired from the Chicago Police Department on July 15 — about two weeks before he was indicted for fraud. Aaron Price, the other former cop who’s charged, retired in 2017.
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