Capitol rioters cashed in on relief aid before attempt to overthrow the government: report

Some of the Capitol rioters charged with serious crimes took tens of thousands of dollars in government pandemic relief months before the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection.

At least nine suspects facing criminal charges in the Capitol riot received special coronavirus relief funds through small business loan programs in the past year, according to a Daily Beast review of records from the Project On Government Oversight's Covid Tracker.

The business owners-turned-insurrectionists took in more than $227,000 from three small business relief programs -- the Paycheck Protection Program, Economic Injury Disaster Loans, or Disaster Assistance Loans -- last year but were seen carrying out violently acts on video and later charged with crimes ranging from entering a restricted building to assaulting police officers with a deadly weapon.

Brandon Straka, for example, received $20,800 in PPP funds for his hairdressing business and an additional $12,354 in PPP cash for his WalkAway Foundation, which he founded to encourage Democrats to vote Republican.

The social media influencer, who never donated to a Democrat himself and only once voted in the party's primary since 2004, was charged with impeding a law enforcement officer during civil disorder, knowingly entering restricted grounds, and disorderly conduct with intent to disturb a hearing before Congress.

Dominic Pezzola, a member of the Proud Boys who was one of the very first rioters to enter the Capitol, received $12,502 in PPP funds for his "D Pezzola Flooring" business before he was hit with 11 charges, including confronting Capitol police office Eugene Goodman in one memorable encounter.

Julian Elie Khater, one of the men charged with using bear spray against Capitol police officer Brian Sicknick, who later died, and other officers took in $10,000 for the Frutta Bowls smoothie franchise he co-owned as part of the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program.

Scott Kevin Fairlamb, a former ultimate fighter who owns Fairlamb Fitness in New Jersey, received $53,300 through the Disaster Loan program and an additional $1,000 direct payment through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program.

Fairlamb is accused of punching a police officer in the head and charged with multiple felonies, including assaulting an officer and carrying a dangerous weapon in a restricted building.

The largest loan went to Paul Westover, the founder and president of the headhunting firm Search Ingenuity.

Westover received $78,000 in Disaster Assistance loans, $19,300 in PPP funds and $2,000 from an EIDL advance, for a total of $99,300, before he was charged with impeding law enforcement officers and three other crimes.

Richard "Bigo" Barnett, who infamously kicked his feet up on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's desk during the insurrection, took a $9,300 PPP loan for his independent contractor work on windows before he was charged with seven counts, including disorderly conduct in a government building with a dangerous weapon.

Other insurrectionists got loans and other funds for their tattoo parlors, painting business and other businesses.