MCKEESPORT, Pa. (KDKA) — There are calls from Washington, D.C. to prosecute Paycheck Protection Program violators.
It is the result of a KDKA investigation into widespread fraud in southwestern Pennsylvania. KDKA Investigator Andy Sheehan continues to uncover more questionable loans, this time in McKeesport.READ MORE: Two-Dose Version Of Johnson & Johnson's COVID 19-Vaccine Is 94% Effective
PPP fraud appears to be an open secret in McKeesport’s Crawford Village public housing community, where folks say their neighbors have newfound wealth after getting loans as barbers, beauticians and other occupations.
“A barber in here or any of these rows?” said Clarissa Robeson. “No, they’re not beauticians. I don’t think they know how to do hair.”
In McKeesport, KDKA found 37 individuals are getting the maximum $20,000 in PPP loans claiming to be either a barber or a beautician. KDKA checked and two of those people are licensed by the state, as required by law.
KDKA found no evidence of any one of those people operating a business, including one woman KDKA’s Andy Sheehan tried to speak with.
Sheehan: I am Andy Sheehan from KDKA.
Woman: Yeah, for what?
Sheehan: The PPP loan.READ MORE: Family Escapes House Fire In Scott Township
Woman: That was fraud. That wasn’t me.
Sheehan: What happened?
Woman: Will you get away from my door, please?
“It makes you angry because that means people who are eligible for the program could get left out,” said Rep. Mike Doyle.
Doyle has renewed his calls on the Small Business Administration to tighten controls and implement stronger safeguards against this kind of apparent fraud. He is also asking the Justice Department to crack down on the offenders.
“If they’re not doing what they claim to be doing and they don’t have a legitimate business and they’re not paying taxes, it’s fraud and they should be prosecuted,” Doyle said.
People in McKeesport hope they pay the consequences, too.
“Take them to jail cause they took advantage of a program that was for people in low income and businesses that really needed it,” Robeson said.MORE NEWS: 3 People Injured In Head-On Crash Along Rt. 68 In Butler County
Now, the loans can be forgiven if the applicant proves the money went to legitimate business expenses. Congressman Doyle wants the SBA to do a better job reviewing the loans. He said fraud suspects will pay the money back or go to jail.