The Justice Department announced he results of a coordinated, nationwide enforcement action to combat COVID-19 fraud, which included 718 enforcement actions – including federal criminal charges against 371 defendants – for offenses related to over $836 million in alleged COVID-19 fraud. “The Justice Department has now seized over $1.4 billion in COVID-19 relief funds that criminals had stolen and charged over 3,000 defendants with crimes in federal districts across the country,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland. “This latest action, involving over 300 defendants and over $830 million in alleged COVID-19 fraud, should send a clear message: the COVID-19 public health emergency may have ended, but the Justice Department’s work to identify and prosecute those who stole pandemic relief funds is far from over.”
Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco announced the launch of two additional COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Strike Forces: one at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado, and one at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey. These two strike forces add to the three strike forces launched in September 2022 in the Eastern and Central Districts of California, the Southern District of Florida, and the District of Maryland. In the newly announced case, 119 defendants have pleaded guilty or were convicted at trial. Over $57 million in court-ordered restitution was imposed. 117 civil matters occurred during the sweep, with over $10.4 million in judgments. Prosecutors worked with law enforcement to secure forfeiture of over $231.4 million. Some 63 defendants had alleged connections to violent crime, including violent gang members also accused of using pandemic funds to pay for a murder for hire. Twenty-five defendants have alleged connections to transnational crime networks. Many cases involve charges related to pandemic unemployment insurance benefit fraud and fraud against the two largest pandemic Small Business Administration programs: the Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loans.