The U.S. Justice Department has formed three Strike Force teams to enhance its efforts to combat and prevent Covid-19 related fraud that is taking place in many parts of the country.
The Strike Force teams will operate out of U.S. Attorney’s Offices in the Southern District of Florida, the District of Maryland, and a joint effort between the Central and Eastern Districts of California.
The teams are designed to accelerate the process of turning data analytics into criminal investigations, which will enhance prosecutions, the Department of Justice said in a press release.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael C. Galdo, the Justice Department’s Deputy Director for Covid-19 Fraud Enforcement, will lead the Strike Force teams. He said he will co-ordinate the fraud, cybercrime, and money laundering expertise of all DOJ partners in these Strike Force teams to bring the fraudsters to justice.
Since the start of this pandemic, the Justice Department has seized more than $1.2 billion in relief funds that criminals were attempting to steal, and charged more than 1,500 fraudsters with crimes in federal districts across the country with alleged losses exceeding $1.1 billion.
As Director for Covid-19 Fraud Enforcement, Associate Deputy Attorney General Kevin Chambers leads the Department’s criminal and civil enforcement efforts to combat Covid related fraud. To date, civil investigations were conducted into more than 1,800 individuals and entities for alleged misconduct in connection with pandemic relief loans totaling more than $6 billion.
“Criminals took advantage of the worst pandemic in a century to line their pockets with public money intended for struggling businesses and workers forced to sit idle,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Stephanie S. Christensen of the Central District of California.
The Justice Department’s efforts to combat Covid-related fraud schemes have proceeded on many fronts, including cases and investigations involving the Paycheck Protection Program, Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, Unemployment Insurance programs, and Covid-19 health care fraud enforcement.
As the U.S. continues to fight the pandemic, a parallel outbreak of coronavirus scams, many targeting older Americans, are widespread in the country.
As per the Federal Trade Commission data, more than 754,000 consumer complaints related to Covid and stimulus payments were registered since the start of the pandemic. Majority of them involved fraud or identity theft, which is estimated to cost consumers $827.6 million.
The scam tools include phishing emails and texts, bogus social media posts, robocalls, impostor schemes and closely following the headlines, adapting their messages and tactics as new medical and economic issues arise.
At the peak of demand for Covid tests driven by the omicron variant surge, federal and state authorities warned consumers about scammers selling fake or unauthorized at-home rapid tests online, or charging for tests that are provided for free by the administration.
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