published : 2023-08-24
DOJ Intervenes Over Alleged Theft of COVID-19 Funds; Charges Hundreds In Connection
Among the 300 charged, 60 have notable ties to organized crime, as revealed in the stringent US investigation
In a sweeping operation, hundreds of individuals have found themselves facing charges related to the theft of more than $830 million in COVID-19 emergency aid.
This rigorous endeavour was orchestrated and conducted by various federal, state and local law enforcement agencies across the nation, culminating in an announcement made by the U.S. Justice Department this Wednesday.
Notably, amongst the charged defendants, more than 60 are believed to be connected to organized crime.
This includes members of a notorious criminal gang, suspected of utilising the purloined pandemic relief finances to carry out a murder.
Speaking on the matter, Attorney General Merrick Garland stated, "This latest endeavour, covering over 300 defendants and over $830 million in alleged COVID-19 fraud, sounds a clear alarm: the COVID-19 public health emergency may have subsided, but our work to identify and prosecute those who pilfered pandemic relief funds remains persistent and unending."
Accusations have been levied against more than 300 persons throughout the course of this operation, throwing light on the extent of the fraud which transpired during the three months it ran, until its end in July.
Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco vowed the enforcement would continue relentlessly, as law enforcement officials convene in live-streamed discussions on the Justice Department’s website.
A previous analysis by the Associated Press, published in June, suggested that the fraudulent claimants could have absconded with more than $280 billion in COVID-19 relief funding; while an additional $123 billion was either wasted or misused.
The brunt of these funds were taken from large pandemic relief initiatives, designed to aid small businesses and unemployed workers bearing the brunt of the economic distress brought on by the pandemic.
Almost 3,200 defendants have now been charged in relation to COVID-19 aid fraud, as per the Justice Department's latest figures, marking the recovery of about $1.4 billion in stolen pandemic aid.
One case in particular, brought up by Justice officials, involves an alleged launch of a murder-for-hire plot by members of the notorious Milwaukee gang known as the Wild 100s.
Court records suggest they stole millions in pandemic unemployment assistance, which were subsequently used in purchasing firearms, narcotics, and executing an assassination.
No specifics were given as to how much of the stolen funds were used in this particular criminal offence.
In an ongoing effort to fight Covid-19 related fraud, the Justice Department announced the establishment of new strike forces in Colorado and New Jersey, bolstering their existing teams in California, Florida and Maryland.
Speaking on the pressing issue, Mike Galdo, the department’s acting director for Covid-19 Fraud Enforcement, said, "From what we’ve observed regarding the extent of the fraud, I can’t foresee an end to our impending work."