COVID relief money allegedly given to gang member while another man recruits online for participates in fraud

Posted at 2:46 PM, Jul 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-29 15:02:51-04

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - More COVID-19 relief fraud cases and accusations are unfolding in our region.

The News 3 Investigative team has been working to get answers about why so much taxpayer money was wrongly given out.

Demichael Peeples pleaded guilty to mail fraud after admitting to sending in fake claims for unemployment benefits for both himself and others. Court records reveal that he said he lost his job because of the pandemic. They say he got about $30,000 but tried to get over $126,000.

They say he filed out applications for PPP loans with other people’s information in California after making social media posts requesting their personal information. It states he never gave them proceeds from the money he received from the government.

In another rent case, court records reveal that the government gave Tukory Hargrove, an alleged gang member in Newport News, almost $50,000 in PPP loans. Prosecutors claim the business he allegedly put on the application didn’t exist and they say the gang is allegedly associated with violent crime on the Peninsula.

We reached out to the US Small Business Association about the overall issue of COVID-19 relief fraud and they issued the following statement:

The SBA, under the Biden-Harris Administration, has and always will make the responsible stewardship of economic relief programs a top priority, implementing top industry fraud controls and identifying and aggressively pursuing instances of fraud in SBA’s COVID-19 assistance programs. We are continuing to closely consult with oversight and law enforcement agencies, including the OIG and the DOJ, to prosecute fraudsters and seize unlawfully obtained funds.

The Department of Justice announced in March that Associate Deputy Attorney General Kevin Chambers will now be the Director for COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement. They said Mr. Chambers will lead the department’s criminal and civil enforcement efforts to combat COVID-19 related fraud, which efforts have to date resulted in criminal charges against over 1,000 defendants with alleged losses exceeding $1.1 billion; the seizure of over $1 billion in Economic Injury Disaster Loan proceeds; and over 240 civil investigations into more than 1,800 individuals and entities for alleged misconduct in connection with pandemic relief loans totaling more than $6 billion.