A month does not seem to go by without Palm Beach County Inspector General John Carey finding a case of COVID-19 fraud.

He has already recovered more than $200,000, mostly from efforts to illegally obtain emergency housing assistance when the COVID-19 pandemic was at its peak. Applicants have used fake pay stubs, filed duplicate applications and falsified income to illegally obtain money from the program that is administered by Palm Beach County.

But last week, Carey released a report that showed fraud being taken to a new level. A resident filed an application for a rental unit in West Palm Beach in her mother’s name. The problem was that her mother had died six months earlier. The lease submitted to the county was forged.

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Palm Beach County Inspector General John Carey has found scores of instances of COVID fraud, including one in which a woman sought funds for her mother, who had died six months earlier.

Palm Beach County Inspector General John Carey has found scores of instances of COVID fraud, including one in which a woman sought funds for her mother, who had died six months earlier.

The daughter claimed to be her mother’s landlord. She was not. The daughter moved into the unit after the mother died. The daughter also illegally obtained a food card with $900 in assistance. Part of the money was used to pay off an automobile loan.

Carey has referred his findings to the U.S. Attorney’s office. Carey reported that $9,500 in inappropriate payments were made. The county has agreed to attempt to recover the funds.

John A. Carey has led the Palm Beach County Office of Inspector General since 2014.John A. Carey has led the Palm Beach County Office of Inspector General since 2014.

John A. Carey has led the Palm Beach County Office of Inspector General since 2014.

The daughter also tried to obtain $7,500, but county officials had already discovered that she did not own the rental unit and denied the request. Carey did not identify the person he said fraudulently obtained the money. Both the names of the daughter and her deceased mother were redacted from the report.

“We find by a preponderance of evidence that the applicant falsely claimed to be her deceased mother’s landlord,” Carey said in his 32-page report released Friday, March 29.

In May 2020, Palm Beach County allocated $261 million for emergency mortgage, rental, and utility assistance. The daughter filed her application on Nov. 8, 2020. Her mother had died March 3, 2020. Carey said that efforts to interview the daughter were unsuccessful.

Agencies in Palm Beach County and across the country used federal COVID relief money to keep people and businesses afloat financially during and in the immediate aftermath of the pandemic. But Carey, as have his counterparts throughout the country, found that often applicants bilked the program.

A report from the Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Small Business Administration estimates that more than $200 billion in COVID-19 relief loans and grants for small businesses may have been stolen through fraud.

Mike Diamond is a journalist at The Palm Beach Post, part of the USA TODAY Florida Network. He covers Palm Beach County government and transportation. You can reach him at [email protected]. Help support local journalism. Subscribe today.

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Daughter got COVID funds in dead mom name for Palm Beach County rental

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