The U.S. Secret Service on Tuesday said that a minimum of about $100 billion has been stolen from the pandemic relief programs intended to aid people who lost their jobs and business impacted by the health crisis, AP News reported.
Secret Service national pandemic fraud recovery coordinator Roy Dotson said in an interview that the amount was according to the agency’s cases and Labor Department and Small Business Administration’s record. The cases prosecuted by the Justice Department, however, were not included in the Secret Service’s estimates.
Dotson said that while about 3 percent of the $3.4 trillion distributed, the amount taken away from the COVID-19 benefits programs depicts “the sheer size of the pot is enticing to the criminals.”
Unemployment fraud makes the most of the figure. According to the Labor Department, nearly $87 billion in unemployment benefits might have been distributed improperly and most of it was connected to fraud.
While investigating unemployment insurance and loan fraud, the Secret Agency said it has recovered over $1.2 billion. It also returned over $2.3 billion of funds gained through fraudulent manners. This achievement was done by the Secret Service through working with the states and financial partners to reverse money processes.
Furthermore, over 900 active criminal investigations into pandemic fraud are handled by the Secret Service. Every state logged fraud cases and so far, 100 persons were already arrested.
Last week, the Justice Department said that 150 defendants were prosecuted at its fraud section. They are involved in over 95 criminal cases, and more than $75 million funds were recovered from the deceitfully gotten Paycheck Protection Program amount.
Small businesses affected by the pandemic are offered justifiable loans for low interest – which is among the most known programs set up through the March 2020 CARES Act.
The Secret Agency said that early in the COVID-19 crisis, law enforcement has pinned its attention on personal protective equipment. Their focus now shifted on the exploitation of aid intended for the pandemic-affected persons as the criminal networks and individuals were enticed by the CARES Act federal funding.
“Can we stop fraud? Will we? No, but I think we can definitely prosecute those that need to be prosecuted and we can do our best to recover as much fraudulent pandemic funds that we can,” Dotson said.