$100 Billion Stolen
Criminals have stolen close to $100 billion in pandemic relief funds, the U.S. Secret Service said Tuesday.
The estimate is based on Secret Service cases and data from the Labor Department and the Small Business Administration, said Roy Dotson, the agency’s national pandemic fraud recovery coordinator.
The stolen funds were diverted by fraudsters from the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, and another program set up to dole out unemployment assistance funds nationwide.
Most of that figure also comes from unemployment fraud. The fast rollout of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program made it easy prey for fraudsters. The Labor Department reported about $87 billion in unemployment benefits could have been paid improperly, with a significant portion attributable to fraud.
The Secret Service said it has seized more than $1.2 billion while investigating unemployment insurance and loan fraud and has returned more than $2.3 billion of fraudulently obtained funds by working with financial partners and states to reverse transactions. The Secret Service says it has more than 900 active criminal investigations into pandemic fraud, with cases in every state, and 100 people have been arrested so far.
“Can we stop fraud? Will we? No, but I think we can definitely prosecute those that need to be prosecuted and we can do our best to recover as much fraudulent pandemic funds that we can,” said Dotson, who is the Secret Service’s assistant special agent in charge of the agency’s field office in Jacksonville, Florida.
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