The U.S. Secret Service is stepping up its efforts to claw back the billions more that Covid-19-related fraud has cost the economy –the agency over two years has seized more than $2 billion in relief funds obtained by fraudsters. One hundred people have been arrested. It still has more than 900 active criminal investigations into Covid-19-related financial fraud.
The agency is now tapping a senior official to work with law enforcement agencies across the country on the issue.
‘Enormous’: Secret Service reveals scope of Covid-19 fraud
“I’ve never seen anything like this in my career as far as the magnitude and the scope,” Roy Dotson, who has spent nearly three decades in law enforcement, told CNN, referring to the Covid-related financial fraud.
According to The Hill and AP, the White House is downplaying the statement by the Secret Service that nearly $100 billion has been stolen from COVID-19 relief programs. The White House said that the estimate is based on old reports.
The roughly $2 trillion coronavirus relief package known as the CARES Act that became law in March 2020 brought unemployment benefits and loans to millions of Americans, but it also opened up opportunities for criminals to exploit those programs by fraudulently applying for aid.
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is intended to help small businesses keep workers employed through shutdowns and other COVID-related losses, but many people have tried to fraudulently use the money for other purposes.
In one such case from Texas, according to the Justice Department, the defendant “obtained approximately $17.3 million and used the proceeds to purchase multiple homes, jewelry, and luxury vehicles.” In another case, a venture capitalist and Republican donor in Irvine, California took $5.1 million intended for small businesses and bought a Lamborghini, Bentley and Ferrari.
Crane Hassold, a former FBI analyst who is now director of threat intelligence at security firm Abnormal Security, said the CARES Act was “essentially a scammer’s World Series and Super Bowl rolled up into one.”