A federal aid program meant for struggling small businesses awarded money to a fraudster posing as President Donald Trump, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
It’s the latest sign of lax controls in the Small Business Administration’s $212 billion Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. The agency’s inspector general warned this week that billions of dollars may have been paid out improperly, and Bloomberg News reported on widespread fraud.
Someone posing as Trump submitted an online application using an address at the White House and collected a $5,000 SBA grant, according to one of the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the matter is sensitive. The same applicant also sought a loan that was denied, the person said.
The SBA said in a statement that it “caught this advance within its system” and referred the matter to its inspector general’s criminal investigation team. The inspector general’s office said it couldn’t comment on the status of that inquiry. It couldn’t be learned if the applicant was identified or the money recovered. The president wasn’t involved in any way.
From April through July, the SBA program distributed $20 billion in small-business grants of as much as $10,000. Most were funded with no human intervention based on the recommendation of a computer system. Loans, which typically involve a human sign-off, continue to be processed, and $192 billion have been approved so far.
The SBA has been defending its oversight of the program since Inspector General Hannibal “Mike” Ware issued a report Wednesday describing evidence that the program was abused. Ware wrote that the agency received applications in the names of “prominent national leaders” and that one got a $5,000 grant. He didn’t provide any names but said the applications “were obviously not legitimate.”
Ware identified tens of billions of dollars of loans that bore potential indicators of fraud, such as bank account information that was changed after loan approval, or multiple loans that went to the same street address. SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza wrote in a rebuttal that Ware’s analysis “does not fully and accurately portray SBA’s highly successful delivery of an unprecedented volume of disaster assistance.”