Chicago/ Crime & Emergencies
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Published on May 22, 2024
Two Cook County Sheriff's Officers Indicted for Alleged PPP Fraud, South Shore Duo Sentenced in COVID-19 Relief SchemeSource: Facebook/Cook County Sheriff's Office (Official)

In a continuation of what appears to be a troubling trend among public servants, two more Cook County sheriff's correctional officers have been indicted for alleged scheming to defraud the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Officers John Williams and Kiara Brown now face charges, with Williams accused of falsely claiming to own a barbershop to receive two PPP loans totaling $41,666, and Brown similarly charged for loans of $20,000 and $19,790 for nail and beauty salons. According to Chicago Sun-Times, an internal sheriff’s investigation uncovered no evidence of the businesses or secondary employment disclosures required by the sheriff's office.

The Cook County Sheriff's Office has since "de-deputized" the accused, reassigning them to administrative duties amidst the criminal prosecution and ongoing internal probes. These findings come on the heels of the May 8 accusation against former Cook County correctional officer Jareli Reyes for fraudulently obtaining $41,666 in PPP loans in 2021.

In a separate but analogous case, two former government employees from the South Shore, Arthur Cornwall, and Sean Williams, have been sent up the river with 1½ year prison sentences for pilfering $770,000 from pandemic business-relief programs. Despite having stable jobs complete with pensions and health insurance, the duo dived deep into PPP and COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) reservoirs meant for businesses struggling to survive pandemic-induced economic shutdowns. Their scheme included the submission of false applications claiming nonexistent employees and profits for their home renovation companies—a move aimed at acquiring hefty sums to fund both property acquisitions and personal indulgences like cryptocurrencies. Such revelations have come to light courtesy of Newsday's reporting.

During sentencing, U.S. District Judge Joan M. Azrack admonished Cornwall for his actions, stating, "This crime wasn't born out of financial distress or personal crisis … it was blatant theft and needs to be punished." The accused expressed remorse, with Cornwall even shedding tears in court over the impact his incarceration might have on his three young girls and Williams acknowledging, "It was a bad decision that I shouldn't have made in the first place." Still, none of the stolen funds have been returned, according to the authorities.

Their lawyer, Karen H. Charrington, defended the character of the men outside the courthouse, asserting, "These are upstanding guys who got involved in a situation." Nevertheless, U.S. Attorney Breon Peace made it clear that exploitation of public benefits wouldn't be overlooked, saying, "Abuse of public benefits programs, particularly shameful when those defrauding the government are public servants, will not be tolerated and not forgotten with the passage of time from the darkest days of the COVID-19 pandemic."