HomeBusinessHundreds nabbed for pilfering COVID relief funds

Hundreds nabbed for pilfering COVID relief funds

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Federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies in the United States have charged hundreds of people with stealing over $830 million in COVID-19 emergency aid. The U.S. Justice Department revealed that more than 60 of the defendants are connected to organized crime, with one criminal gang allegedly using stolen pandemic funds to finance a murder. Attorney General Merrick Garland emphasized that even though the COVID-19 public health emergency has ended, the Justice Department will continue to identify and prosecute individuals involved in the theft of pandemic relief funds.

The nationwide operation spanned three months and led to charges against over 300 individuals, highlighting the widespread nature of the fraud. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco expressed the commitment of law enforcement officials to persevere until all culprits are held accountable. An Associated Press analysis from June suggested that fraudsters potentially stole more than $280 billion in COVID-19 relief funding, with an additional $123 billion wasted or misspent. The majority of the stolen funds were obtained from three major relief initiatives aimed at assisting small businesses and unemployed workers affected by the economic turmoil caused by the pandemic. The Justice Department has seized approximately $1.4 billion of stolen pandemic aid.

One specific case cited by Justice officials involved members of the Wild 100s gang in Milwaukee, accused of stealing millions of dollars in pandemic unemployment assistance and using a portion of the money to purchase weapons, drugs, and allegedly pay for a murder. While the victim is identified only as N.B. in the federal indictment, the exact amount of funds utilized to finance the slaying has not been specified. Moreover, the Justice Department announced the establishment of additional strike forces in Colorado and New Jersey to combat COVID-19 fraud, in addition to existing ones in California, Florida, and Maryland. The department remains committed to its ongoing efforts against pandemic aid fraud due to the extensive scale of the illegal activities discovered.

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