DOJ Charges 371 People over $836M in Alleged COVID-19 Fraud

By Steve Neavling

The Justice Department has charged 371 people in a nationwide crackdown on fraud related to COVID-19 aid, targeting more than $830 million in stolen coronavirus funds, the agency announced in a news release Wednesday. 

The three-month sweep included 718 enforcement actions and recovered $321 million in stolen funds. 

“The Justice Department has now seized over $1.4 billion in COVID-19 relief funds that criminals had stolen and charged over 3,000 defendants with crimes in federal districts across the country,” Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said. “This latest action, involving over 300 defendants and over $830 million in alleged COVID-19 fraud, should send a clear message: the COVID-19 public health emergency may have ended, but the Justice Department’s work to identify and prosecute those who stole pandemic relief funds is far from over.”

Of the 371 people charged, 119 of them have pleaded guilty or were convicted at trial. The convictions led to $57 million in court-ordered restitution. 

Prosecutors said 63 of the defendants were connected to violent crime. That includes violent gang members who are accused of using pandemic funds to pay for murder-for-hires. 

“The law enforcement actions announced today reflect the Justice Department’s focus – working with our law enforcement partners nationwide – on bringing to justice those who stole from American businesses and families at a time of national emergency,” Deputy Attorney General Monaco said. “The two new Strike Forces launched today will increase our reach as we continue to pursue fraudsters and recover taxpayer funds, no matter how long it takes.”

The sweep involved more than 50 U.S. attorney’s offices, including the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Strike Forces, the Justice Department’s Criminal and Civil Divisions, and more than a dozen law enforcement and OIG partners.

“I applaud the hard work of our prosecutors around the country,” Michael A. Galdo, acting director of the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement, said. “However, this announcement is not a victory lap. Our mission is not complete. We know from our investigative partners that identifying those who committed pandemic relief fraud and recovering stolen funds is difficult work. But the Justice Department, including our strike forces, U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, and the Criminal and Civil Divisions, is committed to using our criminal, civil, and forfeiture tools to hold these fraudsters accountable.”

Leave a Reply