NEW YORK (PIX11) — A number of people employed by New York City and the state were arrested Wednesday morning as part of an investigation into fraudulent COVID-relief loans.

In total, 19 people face charges, with 17 of them employed by NYC or NYS. Sixteen people have been arrested and police are looking for three others.

“Of those arrested today are civil servants, NYPD employees, and a captain for the Department of Corrections,” Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Thomas M. Fattorusso said. “These are individuals who held positions of trust and had strong, stable jobs while so many people struggled during the pandemic.” 

They’re accused of submitting loan applications with fake claims, officials said. Many of them claimed they operated hair and nail salons.

They allegedly fraudulently received more than $1.5 million from the Small Business Administration, authorities said. The money was spent on gambling, stock investments, furniture, electronics and luxury clothing.

“Scheming to steal government funds intended to help small businesses weather a national emergency is offensive,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said. “And, as public employees, these folks should have known better.  This office will continue to prosecute those who use fraud to line their pockets with taxpayer money.”

Officials charged Rodney Smith, 54, Denise Gant, 52, Ebony Simon, 45, Phya Scott, 51, Priscilla Jackson, 41, Yolanda Lawrence, 48, Zhane Ratcliff, 27, Sharon Charles, 56, and Yolanda Ratcliff, 48, with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud. Smith was also charged with aggravated identity theft.

Vashawan Foreman, 40, Dione Hall, 55, Walter Susswell, 28, Delilah Cummings, 37, Trevor Gordon, 66, Toni McCullough, 38, Ronette Short, 40, Brandon Boyle, 31, Jarod Ottley, 57, and Edwin Skepple, 40, were charged with wire fraud.