Seven people in the Chicago area are facing federal charges for collecting at least $16 million in COVID relief money, the U.S. attorney’s office announced Thursday. The individuals are charged with wire fraud and money laundering after using small business grants and loans for personal use, a 31-page federal indictment states.
The alleged fraud is tied to a loan program under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. The program, known as the Economic Injury Disaster Loan is designed to provide loan assistance and grants for small businesses affected by the pandemic.
According to the indictment, the individuals applied for EIDL relief money in 2020, claiming to own and operate several businesses in Illinois and Florida. Those applications and documents included false information about employees, revenue and other expenses, the indictment states.
The individuals received up to $16 million, which they allegedly used for personal gain through cash withdrawals and transfers.
The seven charged are: Maja Nikolic, 34, of Brookfield, Marko Nikolic, 34, of La Grange, Nebojsa Simeunovic, 37, of Lyons, Mijajlo Stanisic, 33, of Willowbrook, Branko Aleksic, 33, of Chicago, Milica Sumakovic, 31, of Chicago, and Dorde Todorovic, 32, of Chicago.
They face up to 20 years in prison for each wire fraud and money laundering charge. Arraignments in Chicago’s federal court have yet to be scheduled.