The Secret Service has investigated many of the fraudulent scams over the last year and found that nearly $100 billion in COVID-19 relief funds were stolen.
On Tuesday, it was announced that fraudsters have been diverting pandemic relief funds from the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, and another program set up to distribute unemployment assistance funds nationwide, CNBC reports.
Of the $2.3 million recovered by the Secret Service, more than 100 individuals and organized groups have faced arrests. As a result of all the fraud, a newly appointed national pandemic fraud recovery coordinator was put in place to oversee the sprawling amount of fraud investigations.
“I’ve been in law enforcement for over 29 years and worked some complex fraud investigations for 20 plus years, and I’ve never seen something at this scale,” said Assistant Special Agent in Charge Roy Dotson, the person placed in the new agency role.
The news comes one week after The Justice Department revealed over 150 defendants in over 95 criminal cases related to the Paycheck Protection Program, Axios reports. Since the start of the pandemic, the government has issued over $3.5 trillion in COVID-19 relief money.
“There’s no doubt that the programs were easily accessible online. And so, with that, comes the opportunity for bad actors to get into that mix,” Dotson said.
“It was necessary to try to get these funds out to people that were truly hurting, and no fault of anybody.”
Most of the fraud came in the form of unemployment, CBS News reports. The Labor Department says about $87 billion in unemployment benefits were possibly paid improperly and mainly in the form of fraud.
The Secret Service currently has more than 900 active criminal investigations into pandemic fraud within every state.
“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,” Dotson said.