To date, the DOJ has publicly charged 474 defendants with criminal offenses based around fraud schemes connected to the current pandemic. These cases involved fraudulent transactions attempting to obtain over $569 million from the United States government and individual citizens. These cases were brought to 56 federal districts around the country and demonstrated a level of complexity and coordination that is now being understood by enforcement officials working against COVID-19 related fraud.
“To anyone thinking of using the global pandemic as an opportunity to scam and steal from hardworking Americans, my advice is simple – don’t,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas L. McQuaid of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “No matter where you are or who you are, we will find you and prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.”
“The Department of Justice has led an historic enforcement initiative to detect and disrupt COVID-19 related fraud schemes,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “The impact of the department’s work to date sends a clear and unmistakable message to those who would exploit a national emergency to steal taxpayer-funded resources from vulnerable individuals and small businesses. We are committed to protecting the American people and the integrity of the critical lifelines provided for them by Congress, and we will continue to respond to this challenge.”
On criminal matters, the Justice Department’s efforts to combat COVID-19 related fraud schemes have proceeded on numerous fronts, including:
Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) fraud : Prominent among the department’s efforts have been cases brought by the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section involving at least 120 defendants charged with PPP fraud. The cases involve a range of conduct, from individual business owners who have inflated their payroll expenses to obtain larger loans than they otherwise would have qualified for, to serial fraudsters who revived dormant corporations and purchased shell companies with no actual operations to apply for multiple loans falsely stating they had significant payroll, to organized criminal networks submitting identical loan applications and supporting documents under the names of different companies.
Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) fraud : The department has also focused on fraud against the EIDL program, which was designed to provide loans to small businesses, agricultural and non-profit entities. Fraudsters have targeted the program by applying for EIDL advances and loans on behalf of ineligible newly-created, shell, or non-existent businesses, and diverting the funds for illegal purposes.
Unemployment Insurance (UI) fraud : Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more than $860 billion in federal funds has been appropriated for UI benefits through September 2021. Early investigation and analysis indicate that international organized criminal groups have targeted these funds by using stolen identities to file for UI benefits. Domestic fraudsters, ranging from identity thieves to prison inmates, have also committed UI fraud.
To report a COVID-19-related fraud scheme or suspicious activity, contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) by calling the NCDF Hotline at 1-866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.