After reporting in June that thieves made off with at least $280 billion in COVID-19 relief funds, global investigations reporter Richard Lardner dug deeper to answer a simple question. What were the most unusual purchases the crooks made with the cash they grabbed?
Sweetheart Island, in the Gulf of Mexico, stood out. So, Lardner traveled to Yankeetown, Florida, and kayaked out to the island to take a closer look. A drone equipped with a camera took video and photos as Lardner paddled around Sweetheart Island in the early August heat. That up-close look, along with the imagery and information from federal court records, gave readers a richly detailed account of how the emergency aid was squandered during the nation’s worst public health crisis in a hundred years.