Covid scam: Milwaukee street gang allegedly stole millions to pay for murder, guns and drugs

According to a federal indictment, a Milwaukee street gang allegedly stole millions of dollars in Covid-19 pandemic relief funds, which were then used in a murder and the purchase of guns and drugs and other items.

The 43-count indictment charges 30 members of the “Wild 100s,” also known as the “Shark Gang,” on a litany of crimes including mail fraud, contract killing, conspiracy to sell guns and illegal possession of firearms, including a machine gun and drug possession with intent to sell.

The charges were returned by a grand jury in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin and overturned in May.

The alleged leader of the gang, Ronnell Bowman, and another defendant, Ronnie Jackson, have been charged with the April 2021 murder of a person identified only as NB in ​​a murder-for-hire arrangement.

Bowman and Jackson have pleaded not guilty. Bowman, who was arrested in the Houston area in May, is being held pending trial. Both men could face life imprisonment if convicted.

Assistant US Attorney Laura Kwaterski told a federal judge in May that Bowman was the ringleader of the fraud scheme and personally responsible for $850,000 in stolen Covid aid funds, according to a transcript of the defendant's detention hearing.

The cheating methods Bowman allegedly taught other gang members resulted in the theft of millions of dollars in Covid aid funds, Kwaterski told the judge during the hearing.

The indictment alleges that the “Wild 100s” in California and several other states made fraudulent claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

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According to the indictment, the defendants used preloaded debit cards issued by state unemployment programs to withdraw cash from Wisconsin ATMs. The stolen Covid cash was allegedly used to arrange the murder and to buy weapons, drugs, jewellery, clothes and holidays, among other things.

Bowman is said to have used the stolen money to commit the murder and to purchase several firearms, including machine guns, and then passed those guns on to others despite knowing they would be used to commit violence, including murder , Kwaterski told the judge during the hearing.

According to evidence presented by Kwaterski at that hearing, Bowman allegedly offered on Instagram to pay for the murder of a rival gang member's mother or sister. Instead, the rival gang member's boyfriend was found dead. According to Kwaterski, Jackson was allegedly paid $10,000 for committing the murder.

Bowman is suspected of two other contract killings linked to a war with a rival gang, Kwaterski told the judge during the hearing.

Law enforcement's disbanding of the “Wild 100s” was part of a nationwide crackdown this summer in which Justice Department strike teams targeted $836 million in stolen Covid relief funds. The operation resulted in indictments against 371 defendants in a series of fraud counts.

US Attorney General Merrick Garland established a task force in May 2021 to go after scammers who stole Covid aid funds. According to the Justice Department, criminal charges have been filed against more than 3,000 people and more than $1.4 billion in stolen money has been recovered so far.

Assistant Attorney General Lisa Monaco said last week that the Justice Department is setting up new attack teams in Colorado and New Jersey to continue the hunt for stolen aid funds.

“We will seek court orders requiring convicted defendants to repay every dollar stolen, and we have 20 years to make those repayments,” Monaco said.

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