A Brooklyn-based gang, the “Woo gang” got their hands on more than $4 million in COVID-19 relief cash before they were caught and charged. 11 suspects in total were charged Thursday.
The gang members boasted about the scam in a music video, the feds said. The New York Post reports the criminal complaint against them reveals the individuals used personal information, including driver’s license numbers, from 800 people to submit unemployment claims adding up to roughly $20 million.
The gang members were able to receive around $4.3 million in total from the unemployment program between March 2020 and October 2021. In addition to bragging about their successful scamming in a rap music video for the song ‘Trappin’, many of the members also “flashed stacks of the cash on social media.”
U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Breon Peace said he will continue to go after gang members attempting to rip off the U.S. government. “These government programs are designed to provide financial assistance to those who are most in need during an unprecedented pandemic” said Peace.
“Unfortunately government aid programs have long been a feeding frenzy for scammers but the scale and the magnitude of the fraud in the unemployment program created by the CARES act has reached staggering levels” said Nino Perrotta, President of Sequoia Securities Group.
“Unfortunately because of the haste in implementing the government programs, they continue to lack the necessary checks and balances required in securing the programs overall integrity” added Perrotta. “With regards to recovery of these stolen assets, unless large sums of the money is in cash at the time they were arrested, or in bank accounts in the names of the alleged defendants, the process for recovery is both time consuming and very technical.”
Feds recovered messages of the suspects, Christopher Jean Pierre, who bought the identifying information of his victims, such as driver’s license numbers, for $150 each. Jean Pierre made the purchases from someone identified as “Skyscraper” on an encrypted messaging app.
Peace said “this Office and its law enforcement partners will vigorously prosecute gang members and anyone else who exploits the pandemic and steals from taxpayer-funded programs.”
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Human Infection of H3N8 Bird Flu Reported in China
Will it ever end? On Tuesday this week China’s health authority recorded its first human infection of the H3N8 strain of avian influenza. The variant was identified in a 4-year-old boy from Henan province.
According to a statement from the National Health Commission (NHC) the child raises chickens and crows in his home city of Zhumadian. On April 5 he showed fever and other symptoms, then was admitted to a medical institution five days later for treatment.
The statement indicated while it has been found in horses, dogs, birds and seals around the world, no human cases have ever been reported. Fox News reports the commission “warned the public to avoid contact with sick and dead poultry, as well as live poultry, and pay attention to hygiene.”
In March, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) wrote highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses had been detected in 13 states among commercial and backyard poultry, as well as in wild birds of 14 states.
Fortunately, the agency said H5N1 bird flu poses a low risk to the public.
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