The Department of Justice suspects that of the $6 trillion in federal COVID relief funds, more than $8 billion have been used for fraudulent activities, the Hill reports. DOJ appointed Kevin Chambers to lead a COVID relief fraud enforcement unit. Much of the enforcement effort will focus on using analytical tools to target fraud schemes committed across state lines and international borders. DOJ has investigated fraud in many programs, including the Paycheck Protection Program, Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, unemployment insurance and COVID-19 health care. Some cases have involved taking out loans in the name of fake companies and using the money on luxury goods. In a speech, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said DOJ had brought "charges against an overseas actor who used the identities of more than 100 Washington state residents to steal funds from a state unemployment insurance agency. That defendant filed similar fraudulent unemployment claims in six other states."
So far, the Justice Department has criminally charged more than 1,000 defendants and launched investigations into more than 1,800 people. Criminal cases account for around $1.1 billion of the suspected fraud while the civil cases seek to recover around $6 billion. “The Justice Department remains committed to using every available federal tool — including criminal, civil, and administrative actions — to combat and prevent COVID-19 related fraud,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland. “We will continue to hold accountable those who seek to exploit the pandemic for personal gain, to protect vulnerable populations, and to safeguard the integrity of taxpayer-funded programs.”