(RepublicanInformer.com)- According to the US Secret Service, an estimated $100 billion in pandemic relief money has been stolen.
The bulk of the money stolen, based on Secret Service cases and data from the Department of Labor and the Small Business Administration comes mostly from unemployment fraud. The Labor Department reported about $87 billion in unemployment benefits may have been improperly paid. And a significant portion of that is attributed to fraud.
During its investigation into unemployment insurance and loan fraud, the Secret Service has seized more than $1.2 billion and has returned over $2.3 billion of fraudulently-obtained funds. There are currently over 900 active criminal investigations into pandemic fraud being conducted by Secret Service. There are cases in all fifty states and thus far, one hundred people have been arrested.
Two weeks ago, the Department of Justice said its fraud section has prosecuted over 150 defendants in more than 95 criminal cases and has seized over $75 million in cash fraudulently obtained through the Paycheck Protection Program. It has also seized numerous real estate properties and luxury items purchased using fraudulently obtained funds.
The Paycheck Protection Program, created as part of the March 2020 CARES Act, offered low-interest, forgivable loans to small businesses struggling to make payroll or pay their expenses during government shutdowns in response to the COVID pandemic.
According to the Secret Service, early on in the pandemic, law enforcement was focused on fraud related to personal protective equipment. However, because the federal funding through the CARES Act drew the attention of individuals and criminal organizations worldwide, authorities turned their focus on the exploitation of pandemic-related relief funds.
According to Roy Dotson, the Secret Service’s national pandemic fraud recovery coordinator, while the agency can’t stop fraud, they can prosecute those who commit it and do their best to recover as much of the fraudulently disperse funds as they can.
“The sheer size of the pot is enticing to the criminals,” Dotson said.