$16 million COVID-19 relief fraud investigation nets seven suspects

Federal prosecutors are accusing seven Chicago-area residents of pilfering at least $16 million COVID-19 relief funds intended for small business operators.

The seven are charged with multiple counts of wire fraud and money laundering, according to court records.

Prosecutors have charged Maja Nikolic, 34 of Brookfield; Marko Nikolic, 34, of La Grange; Nebojsa Simeunovic, 37, of Lyons; Mijajlo Stanisic, 33, of Willowbrook; as well as three Chicago residents, Branko Aleksic, 33; Milica Sumakovic, 31; and Dorde Todorovic, 32.

The seven are accused of defrauding a federal loan assistance and grant program that was intended to cover capital and operating expenses during the pandemic.

Prosecutors said the seven claimed to own and operate businesses in Illinois and Florida, but falsified applications by lying about number of employees, revenues and other expenses.

If convicted, the seven face up to 20 years in prison, according to court papers.

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