ORLANDO, Fla. – The Orlando Secret Service has created an email address for business owners who feel their companies may have been used in cybercrime to fleece the Small Business Administration.
Special Agent in charge Caroline O’Brien-Buster told News 6 she decided to establish the new email after investigations uncovered millions of dollars in assets obtained by thieves using Florida companies as fronts to steal grants from the Small Business Administration (SBA).
The email ORL.CFTF@usss.dhs.gov was established this week as a direct connection to the Secret Service for Small Business owners who believe their companies have been “misrepresented” by thieves.
“We do everything we can to hold these people accountable,” Obrien-Buster told News 6.
News 6 first reported that the Orlando U.S. Secret Service had already recovered more than $2 million in stolen assets earlier this month.
The assets were found in Central Florida bank accounts meant to help small businesses during the COVID-19 economic collapse.
The Secret Service told News 6 it is currently investigating SBA fraud cases in six counties including Orange, Osceola, Seminole, Brevard, Polk, and Volusia counties.
O’Brien-Buster said the local secret service has already investigated 100 cases that led to $2 million in local financial institutions.
“Those folks don’t know they are a victim of fraud until we come out knocking on their door explaining what happened,” she said.
The SBA set aside more than $700 billion authorized through the Cares Act to help companies cover staff payroll and operating expenses during the limited business operations forced by Covid-19.
Special Agent Roy Dotson Jr. told News 6 the potential loss could reach $21 billion.
"If you use SBA’s lower estimate of annual fraud of 3%, you get a sense of what the potential losses could be, he said, “I will say the Service, along with our federal partners, are aggressively investigating these cases at this time.”
A local bank investigator who asked to remain anonymous confirmed financial institutions is working with the secret service and local law enforcement agencies to intercept the stolen funds.
“Financial institutions are researching these deposits,” the source said, “To identify proper ownership of the funds and minimize the fraud.”
Secret Service officials said if you run your credit through Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion this will tell you if someone has taken a loan out in your name. Officials said businesses can check Sunbiz to see if someone took a loan out in your name.
If you feel your business has been compromised you can email the secret service at ORL.CFTF@usss.dhs.gov.
If you have an unemployment benefits issue email News 6 at firstname.lastname@example.org.