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An Alleged Businessman Used Almost $8 Million In COVID Relief Funds To Purchase A Private Island In Florida And Oil Properties In Texas

About a mile off the coast of this little Gulf Coast town lies Sweetheart Island, a two-acre uninhabited slice of heaven where a freshwater spring bubbles among mangroves, cabbage palms, and red cedars.

What Happened?

In the vicinity, pelicans jump into the refreshing waters of Withlacoochee Bay in Florida, and the expansive vista to the west promises breathtaking sunsets.

Patrick Parker Walsh, a businessman from Florida, could have thought it was the perfect escape. As a result of his theft of approximately $8 million in federal COVID-19 relief monies, which he partially used to purchase Sweetheart Island, he is currently serving a five and a half-year sentence in federal prison.

Pandemic Assistance Great Grift The Con Artists

On Tuesday, January 31, 2023, in Gainesville, Florida, Patrick Parker Walsh, left, walks to his car with his spouse following his five and a half-year federal jail sentence for stealing about $8 million in federal COVID-19 relief monies.

COVID Relief Funds

(Photo: Youtube – Matt and Amanda)

According to a study by The Associated Press, the loss amounts to nearly 10% of the $4.3 trillion the U.S. government has spent to lessen the economic damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Their crimes were comparatively easy: especially in the early phases of the COVID-19 crisis, the government wanted to get money into the hands of distressed individuals and businesses with the least amount of trouble possible. The measures to filter out con artists were abandoned. Lying on an application was all it took to steal the money, as Walsh’s case and countless others have demonstrated.

According to court documents, Walsh’s plea agreement included returning the $7.8 million he had stolen and selling Sweetheart Island, one of his first purchases made with the federal funds he had stolen.

Prosecutors claim that Walsh utilized $90,000 of those monies to assist in funding the $116,000 purchase of the island. The island was sold at the end of June for $200,000, according to Florida property records.

According to Walsh’s lawyers, he purchased the island more as a real estate opportunity than as a “tropical paradise for entertainment”. How the businessman would have turned the remote island into a profit center was not explained.

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