KDKA Investigator Andy Sheehan goes on the trail of more than $600,000 federal tax dollars and whether they're being properly spent.By Andy Sheehan

BRADDOCK, Pa. (KDKA) – It’s the talk of the town in Braddock: nearly three dozen residents getting tens of thousands of dollars each in Paycheck Protection loans despite having no visible signs of present or prior employment.

Are the claims legit? Or did more than more than 30 people in downtrodden Braddock and parts of North Braddock try to game the system? 

So KDKA began knocking on doors trying to find out how. How in the last days of April did these people get approved for tens of thousands of dollars each in PPP — the federal government’s Payroll Protection Program. The first thing we found was many of them didn’t live at the address they filed under which, according to property records, have different owners.

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All of the recipients filed as sole proprietors, meaning they own and operate a business generally by themselves. Each of them claimed the maximum and forgivable loan of $20,833 dollars, saying they would have done at least $100,000 dollars worth of business in a given year if not for COVID.

Several listed those businesses as barbers and hairstylists, but we checked, and none operate a shop or are licensed by the state as barbers or cosmetologists as required by law. That includes a woman who got approved for two maximum loans of more than $40,000 as a hairstylist.

Woman: “She doesn’t live here.”
Sheehan: “Well, she’s getting a loan at this address.”
Woman: “I don’t know nothing about that, sir.”
Sheehan: “Is she a hair-cutter?”
Woman: “No, she’s not.”

One man filed for $20,000 in loans even though we verified he’s not licensed and has no shop. Neighbors say they don’t know of him cutting anyone’s hair. He, like several others, did not come to the door.

In another house that is vacant and abandoned, a woman who claims to live there is getting $20,000 as a self-employed food service contractor.

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We brought our findings to the attention of Braddock Chief Guy Collins who began his own investigation, knocking on doors and finding his own evidence of possible fraud.

“A lot of them aren’t licensed and some of the places are abandoned and the businesses are non-existent. I’m finding out a lot of people out here have so-called businesses that don’t exist. And apparently, they’ve been applying for this PPP money and they’ve been receiving it,” he said.

According to records, one woman filed for $20,000 as a caterer. KDKA’s Andy sheehan spoke with a man who says he is her father-in-law who found that surprising.

Sheehan: “She says she’s a caterer.”
Man: “She says she’s a caterer?”
Sheehan: “Is she a caterer?”
Man: “Not that I know of.”

The chief says he is turning this over to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for investigation, believing there is an organized fraud ring operating in his town.

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“If you have that many people in this general area, I would say there has to be some kind of connection,” Collins said.