Illegal, illegaler, illegalest: Chicago gangs used fraudulent COVID relief money to buy guns, solicit murder

AP Photo/Teresa Crawford

Illinois has some of the most draconian gun laws in the country. You need a Firearms Owners Identification Card (FOID) before you can possess a gun, there are “universal” background checks to supposedly prevent transfers to prohibited persons, “assault weapon” bans, “high capacity” magazine bans; you name it, Illinois’ got it. Those laws got even worse recently.


While lawful, peaceable people are burdened evermore, criminals missed the memo from the Illinois state government. The Chicago Sun Times reported this story (archived links) of the extent of criminality in relation to the “free” money the Feds tossed out of a helicopter to counter the devastating economic impact of government-induced pandemic lockdowns:

Millions in PPP, other COVID-19 relief funds went to gangs, fueled Chicago’s illegal gun market
In Chicago, the price of illegal guns soared during the pandemic, but gangs were able to pay for them with COVID-19 relief money obtained fraudulently, agents say.

When COVID-19 struck in 2020, the government quickly put together massive aid programs to help struggling businesses, along with the people who lost their jobs.

But other kinds of enterprises with names like the Traveling Vice Lords and the Wild 100s — criminal street gangs in Chicago and across the country — soon figured out how to take advantage of that safety net. They defrauded those programs of millions of dollars that they used to buy guns and drugs, according to the U.S. Justice Department and court records.

Incarcerated crooks were in on the act, too. The government estimates that, across the country, at least one-quarter of a billion dollars in fraudulent unemployment insurance benefits went to inmates in federal prisons. […]

In Chicago, the price of illegal guns soared during the pandemic, but gangs were able to pay for them with fraudulent COVID-19 relief proceeds, according to federal agents. In Milwaukee, a gang member even used ill-gotten coronavirus relief benefits to pay for a man to be killed, authorities say. […]

They used their PPP money, loans that in most cases didn’t need to be repaid, to buy guns from other gang members and sometimes employed straw purchasers — people who can legally buy firearms at gun stores — to get firearms for them in Illinois and out of state. […]

Strauss says the price of illegally sold Glock handguns — a high-quality weapon of choice for Chicago gang members — went up during the pandemic. He says “street Glocks” rose in price from about $700 to more than $1,000 — and even more when equipped with an extended magazine and an illegal device known as a switch that converts it into a machine gun.


Crooks committed extensive COVID-19 fraud to bilk the public treasury (illegal) and to buy guns (illegal), used straw purchasers (illegal), bought “extended” mags (illegal), and converted their Glocks to machine pistols (illegal). The guns were used in murders (illegal) and the money was used to contract out murders (illegal).

Strauss says the rise in prices on the street probably was due to a scarcity of guns during the pandemic and that PPP loans gave gang members the cash to still buy Glocks even at the inflated prices. […]

In June, the inspector general for the Small Business Administration, which oversaw Paycheck Protection Program loans and Economic Injury Disaster loans, estimated that at least 17% of the $1.2 trillion handed out by those programs was obtained through fraud.

Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman once joked that if you put the Federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in five years there would be a shortage of sand. Government-induced pandemic lockdowns were harsh. They killed off businesses, made people desperate, drove up suicide and drug overdose deaths, damaged children’s education, and induced a mental health crisis among children. To counter the lockdowns, the Feds created a poorly designed and implemented “relief” program and the money from that program caused inflation, not just at the grocery store but also in black market gun prices. Our children and grandchildren will be paying heavy price for this mismanagement for a long time.


In Maryland, U.S. Attorney Erek Barron told WBAL-TV in Baltimore last month that his office has found that about 60% of violent criminals have committed some type of COVID-19 fraud. […]

Galdo says people should be outraged that so many criminals engaged in COVID-19 fraud.

“They’re in a life of crime,” he says. “They are repeat offenders who are committing crimes on a regular basis. And now we’re essentially giving them public money to fund what they’re going to do. Anytime we have that connection, that should be particularly troubling to people.”

There are so many things that the local, state, and federal governments have been doing wrong. Treating violent criminals and repeat offenders with kid gloves, discounting victims’ pain, and passing new laws that only hurt the lawful are things we see on a regular basis. However, forcing the lawful to subsidize the criminal is the bitter icing on the cake of misgovernance. We furnish the means by which we suffer.

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