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DOJ Targets COVID-19 Pandemic Fraud

Posted on in Criminal Defense

Santa Clara criminal defense Lawyer for COVID 19 fraud charges

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States, the federal government took steps to financially assist the millions of Americans who faced financial difficulties the pandemic caused. Programs were set up that provided help to both businesses and employees through the Paycheck Protection Program, Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, and Unemployment Insurance programs. There were also relief funds established for health care providers. Unfortunately, while these programs have been critical to many people’s survival, they have also been the target of fraud.

According to the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), there have already been more than 500 people charged with attempted fraud, with the total amount of funds allegedly stolen exceeding $500 million. Attorney General Merrick Garland recently announced that the DOJ is ramping up its efforts nationwide to “detect and disrupt COVID-19 related fraud.”

Fraud Targets

According to the DOJ’s announcement, the following areas of COVID relief have been the hardest hit with fraud:

·       Paycheck Protection Program (PPP): The DOJ has arrested more than 120 people so far for PPP fraud. Some of the more common offenses include business owners inflating their payroll expenses in order to qualify for larger amounts in loans than what they actually qualify for and business owners who have used PPP funds for personal luxury items, vehicles, and other prohibited purchases. The DOJ has also charged individuals with creating shell corporations in order to steal PPP funds.

·       Economic Injury Disaster Loans: Shell companies are also a common form of fraud used to illegally obtain funds for a business that never existed. To date, the DOJ has seized more than $580 million in fraudulent disaster loan funds.

·       Unemployment Insurance Fraud: The DOJ estimates that there are more than $26 billion in federal unemployment insurance funds that will be lost to fraud. This not only includes individuals who are claiming benefits they are not entitled to but there has also been a significant amount of international and domestic organized criminal syndicates – including prison inmates – who use stolen identities to apply and receive benefits.

·       Identity Theft: There has been a substantial increase in identity theft using healthcare benefits to obtain the victim’s information. Using text messages, social media platforms, and telemarketing calls, victims are offered prescription cards, COVID tests, or grants if they share their personal information. There are a number of fraudulent schemes this information is used for, including submitting false claims to health care programs.  

Contact a San Jose Defense Attorney for Assistance

If you find yourself being accused of fraud for a COVID-related financial assistance program, contact a seasoned Santa Clara County fraud attorney right away. Call Fuller Law Firm at 408-234-7563 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.

 Source:

 

https://www.npr.org/2021/03/26/981598848/doj-has-charged-nearly-500-with-covid-related-fraud-in-the-past-year

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