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Photo: Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Two former employees at a New York bank branch conspired with an accountant to fraudulently apply for over $3 million in COVID relief loans, prosecutors said in a case unsealed Friday.

Why it matters: It's believed to be the first COVID-related fraud case brought against bank employees who attempted to exploit federal pandemic loan programs, according to Reuters.

Anuli Okeke, formerly a branch manager at a major financial institution in New York, worked with Charlene Wint, a supervisor at the same branch, and tax preparer Hashim Campbell to provide false tax documents and help borrowers submit Paycheck Protection Program applications that contained false information.

  • They along with unnamed co-conspirators received kickbacks once the borrowers secured the loan proceeds.
  • Wint and Campbell have pleaded guilty. Okeke made an initial appearance before a U.S. magistrate judge and was released on a $100,000 bond.

What they're saying: "As alleged, the defendants plotted to steal millions in funds that were specifically earmarked by Congress to provide emergency assistance to small businesses and vulnerable workers during a global pandemic and time of great economic hardship," Acting U.S. Attorney Kasulis said in a statement

  • "Together with our law enforcement partners, this Office will vigorously prosecute defendants who shamelessly seek to enrich themselves by taking advantage of government programs that are designed to help those in need during the COVID crisis."

The big picture: Over 500 defendants face charges for similar fraud schemes, per Reuters.

Go deeper

Small Business Administration overpaid $4.5B in COVID loan advance grants

Photo: Alexi Rosenfeld via Getty Images

A COVID emergency relief program improperly paid $4.5 billion to self-employed people — a reflection of the Small Business Administration's (SBA) inability to detect fraud, SBA Inspector General Hannibal Ware wrote in a report released Thursday.

Why it matters: SBA has already faced criticism for issues with fraud in its Paycheck Protection Program.

2 hours ago - Sports

Unvaccinated athletes face 21-day quarantine at Beijing Olympics

Logos for the 2022 Winter Olympics at Yanqing Ice Festival in February 2021 in Beijing. Photo: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

Athletes, staff members and journalists at the 2022 Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games who have not been vaccinated against the coronavirus will be required to quarantine for three weeks, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) outlined in its newly-published "playbooks."

Why it matters: The quarantine period is longer than the Games themselves, meaning vaccinations or an earlier arrival date will be required to participate in or cover the Games.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
4 hours ago - Economy & Business

FTX CEO predicts more U.S. crypto flight

Photo: "Axios on HBO"

FTX doesn't look much like a company valued at $25 billion. Its new headquarters, located in a sleepy part of The Bahamas, is so nondescript as to not even have a sign. But it does expect to soon have neighbors.

Driving the news: Founder and CEO Sam Bankman-Fried tells "Axios on HBO" to expect "more and more crypto flight from the states" if the U.S. doesn't soon create a regulatory regime for cryptocurrencies.