When the COVID-19 pandemic began nearly two years ago, scammers immediately began siphoning off money from the trillions in federal relief money that Congress approved.
Authorities say those fraudsters include Allison Baver, a former Olympic speedskater who has been charged with eight counts of making a false statement to a bank and one count of money laundering, according to the U.S. Attorney's General Office in Utah.
The 41-year-old won a bronze medal for the women's 3000m relay in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, nearly one year after she shattered her ankle and broke her leg in multiple places during a competition in Bulgaria.
After her Olympic victory, Baver launched Allison Baver Entertainment, a company that describes itself as the "engine behind stories that move the needle. We are purpose-driven across film, television, and lifestyle endeavors."
Now, authorities say that Baver lied on loan applications to fraudulently receive $10 million from the Paycheck Protection Program – some of which she invested in a movie about the serial killer Ted Bundy, prosecutors say.
Baver allegedly claimed in some applications for PPP funding that her company had an average monthly payroll of $4 million and 105 employees, according to the indictment. In others, she said she had 430 workers. But the indictment alleges that Baver actually had no employees or monthly payroll.
In May 2020, one of the banks, Meridian, approved a $10 million loan for Allison Baver Entertainment; two months later, the indictment says, Baver transferred $150,000 to another production company behind the movie "No Man of God," which stars Elijah Wood as serial killer Ted Bundy.
Federal prosecutors want Baver to forfeit roughly $9.7 million of the money, according to local station KTSU. She also faces up to 40 years if convicted on all counts.
The Secret Service estimated last month that roughly $100 billion has been stolen from COVID-19 relief funds, a figure that's based on Secret Service cases as well as data from the Labor Department and the Small Business Administration. It does not include COVID-19 fraud cases prosecuted by the Justice Department. In all, at least 3% of the total $3.4 trillion in federal pandemic aid has been stolen by scammers, showing the "sheer size of the pot is enticing to the criminals," the Secret Service said.
"Every state has been hit, some harder than others," said Roy Dotson, assistant special agent in charge. "The Secret Service is hitting the ground running, trying to recover everything we can, including funds stolen from both federal and state programs."