DOJ Recovers $1.4 Bln In Stolen Covid Relief Funds, Charges 3000 Over Fraud

The Justice Department has announced the results of a coordinated, nationwide enforcement action to combat Covid-19 fraud, including federal criminal charges against 371 defendants for offenses amounting to loss of more than $836 million.

The Justice Department has now seized over $1.4 billion in COVID-19 relief funds that criminals had stolen and charged over 3,000 defendants with crimes in federal districts across the country,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland.

The announcement was made by Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco at a roundtable meeting of senior Justice Department officials, law enforcement partners and Office of Inspector General (OIG) executives.

Monaco also announced the launch of two additional Covid-19 Fraud Enforcement Strike Forces: one at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado, and one at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey. These two strike forces add to the three strike forces launched in September 2022 in the Eastern and Central Districts of California, the Southern District of Florida, and the District of Maryland.

As part of the announcement, Acting Director Galdo said that 63 of the defendants had alleged connections to violent crime, including gang members accused of using pandemic funds to pay for a murder for hire. Twenty-five defendants have alleged connections to transnational crime networks.

Many of the cases involve charges related to pandemic unemployment insurance benefit fraud and fraud against the two largest pandemic Small Business Administration programs: the Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loans.

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