More than 50 employees from the office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County have either been fired or chosen to resign amid COVID-19 relief fraud allegations.
The employees were found to have defrauded the Paycheck Protection Program designed to help businesses stay afloat amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Iris Martinez, clerk of the circuit court, whose office employs more than 1,400 staff, says she’s “personally offended” by the fraud.
In an interview with WTTW News, Martinez said she had asked the county’s Office of the Independent Inspector General (OIIG) to assist the clerk’s own inspector general’s investigation into the fraud.
The OIIG found that 55 employees in the clerk’s office had applied for PPP loans. All but one of them appear to have applied for the loans fraudulently, said Martinez.
“When you come into the clerk’s office you take an oath – and I take this oath very seriously – and the fact that there was possibly 55 individuals that might be involved with fraud. … I’m very proud of the employees that we have that didn’t engage in this, however, I will not standby and know that a clerk actually lied on a federal application (for PPP loans),” said Martinez. “There’s no excuse for the lies.”
Instances of PPP fraud by Cook County employees goes beyond just one office.
Fraud by employees at other Cook County agencies has also been found, including the Cook County Assessor’s Office, the Cook County Board of Review and the Cook County Public Defender’s office.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported that three supervisors in the office of Cook County Chief Judge Tim Evans have also been forced to quit because of allegations of fraud.