When Congress passed more than $6 trillion dollars in Wuhan coronavirus relief funds through a series of packages from 2020 through early 2021, criminals took notice.
According to the Secret Service, more than $100 billion has been stolen through a number of programs. The agency is working to find and prosecute the thieves, in addition to recovering the taxpayer money.
"While fraud related to personal protective equipment (PPE) was of primary concern to law enforcement, including the Secret Service, early in the pandemic, the release of federal funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act has attracted the attention of individuals and organized criminal networks worldwide. The exploitation of pandemic-related relief is an investigative priority for the Secret Service and its partners," the Secret Service release in a statement.
According to the agency, hundreds of investigations have been launched into potential fraud and theft.
“The Secret Service currently has more than 900 active criminal investigations into fraud specific to pandemic-related relief funds,” Secret Service Assistant Special Agent in Charge Roy Dotson said about the situation. “That’s a combination of pandemic benefits and all the other benefits programs too. Every state has been hit, some harder than others. The Secret Service is hitting the ground running, trying to recover everything we can, including funds stolen from both federal and state programs.”
When the initial relief package was passed and signed by President Donald Trump last year, the Treasury Department --which has jurisdiction over the Secret Service -- vowed to prosecute relief fraud.
"The Secret Service, through its network of Cyber Fraud Task Forces (CFTF) and in partnership with Federal and State, local, tribal, and territorial partners, as well as foreign law enforcement, academia, and the private sector partners, particularly financial institutions, are addressing the ongoing criminal activity through prevention, mitigation, and investigation," the agency said.