Nearly 500 people have been charged with COVID-19 related fraud, according to the Justice Department.
The DOJ said in a statement on Friday that it has charged 474 defendants with criminal offenses over fraud schemes across 56 federal districts.
DOJ: Nearly 500 charged with pandemic-related fraud
At least 120 defendants have been charged with fraud related to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a provision of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act aimed at helping small businesses keep workers on the payroll. The Department also said that over 140 defendants have been charged with Unemployment Insurance fraud.
The DOJ also said that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado and Secret Service has seized over $580 million in proceeds from fraudulent applications for Economic Injury Disaster (EIDL) loans. Those were designed for small businesses, agricultural and non-profit entities.
On top of this, the DOJ has brought civil and criminal enforcement actions against scams targeting American consumers, including those who sold products using false or unapproved claims about their abilities to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
“The impact of the department’s work to date sends a clear and unmistakable message to those who would exploit a national emergency to steal taxpayer-funded resources from vulnerable individuals and small businesses,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.
“We are committed to protecting the American people and the integrity of the critical lifelines provided for them by Congress, and we will continue to respond to this challenge,” he said
The Department ramped up its pandemic fraud efforts after Congress passed the $2.2 trillion CARES Act last March, which provided assistance to Americans that were struggling as the pandemic progressed in its early days.
The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan passed earlier this month expanded unemployment benefits through September, provided more funding for the PPP program, and extended the EIDL program.
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