The federal government’s hastily assembled Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was intended to help businesses keep workers on the payroll during the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic.  It largely succeeded in that goal. But as is often the case when huge amounts of government money are involved, fraud and abuse soon followed

According to a report from the Project on Government Oversight, the Justice Department has filed charges against 82 people, alleging they fraudulently obtained nearly a quarter billion dollars in relief funds.

What did they do with the money?

 The alleged fraudsters used the money to buy Lamborghini sports cars, go to strip clubs, take gambling trips to Las Vegas, invest money in a cryptocurrency account, make risky stock market bets, purchase a 40-foot yacht and a $1 million rowhouse in Washington, DC, and other expenses not allowed by law, according to the Justice Department.

Consider the case of Michael George McQuarn, who was arrested and charged with defrauding the PPP to the tune of $2 million. According to the Justice Department, McQuarn created fictitious companies to get government loan money. The feds say he spent it on himself, including buying “a 26’ Pavati Wake Boat and a Rolls Royce.”

The PPP effort did help tens of thousands of businesses meet payroll during the worst of the government-ordered lockdowns. But the lure of easy government money was just too powerful for fraudsters to resist.

The PPP ended in August, having made more than five million loans to businesses. Loans were forgiven if at least 60 percent of the loan amount was used to maintain payroll.