In the United States, COVID-related aid fraud exceeds $8 billion

In the United States, COVID-related aid fraud exceeds $8 billion

Extraordinary aid, extraordinary fraud: More than $8 billion has been embezzled as part of a slew of financial aid measures adopted in the United States since the start of the pandemic, the Justice Department estimated Thursday.

Announcing the appointment of a chief prosecutor to coordinate these efforts, the ministry said, “A thousand people are facing criminal charges and 1,800 people or organizations are under civil investigation for these staggering amounts of fraud.”

As promised by Joe Biden during his speech to Congress on March 1, Kevin Chambers became the director of a cell dedicated to the fight against these frauds.

“Under my administration, security measures are back: We hunt down criminals who steal billions of dollars in aid for small businesses and millions of Americans,” the Democratic president launched.

Since March 2020, more than $5 trillion has been released to help businesses and people affected by the pandemic in the United States.

As soon as the first measures were adopted, abuses were identified. Most have targeted the Wage Protection Program (“PPE”), a loan scheme for small and medium-sized businesses that, when used to preserve jobs, turns into aid.

In less severe cases, employers have lied to their employees in order to demand more amounts than they were entitled to. But criminal networks have organized themselves to create fake companies or multiply files, according to officials.

Hundreds of people have also been arrested and charged with unemployment benefits fraud made for workers who were made redundant because of the pandemic. Here again, networks, some of which are based overseas, have set up elaborate scams exclusively by identities grabbing.

In addition, other scams linked to the pandemic are being prosecuted by the same cell: agrafin has developed its activities on the Internet, offering miraculous remedies based on bleach, silver or vitamin C infusion. After fake masks, fake vaccines have also emerged in the trap.

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