U.S. Department of Justice Announces Task Force to Combat COVID-19 Fraud
DOJ to Work with Agencies Across Government to Enhance Enforcement Efforts Against COVID-19 Related Fraud in Programs Such as the Provider Relief Fund and PPP Loan Program
On May 17, 2021, U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland directed the establishment of a new, inter-agency COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice (DOJ) in partnership with agencies across government to enhance enforcement efforts against COVID-19 related fraud. While not specifically outlined in AG Garland’s announcement, potential areas of focus will most likely include:
- Improper use of payments from the Provider Relief Fund (PRF), Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), and/or Economic Impact Disaster Loan (EIDL) program
- Unemployment insurance
- “Double dipping” by using funding from multiple sources – for example the PPP and Provider Relief Fund – to pay the same expenses
- Eligibility criteria
- Improper attestations
“The Department of Justice will use every available federal tool—including criminal, civil, and administrative actions—to combat and prevent COVID-19 related fraud,” AG Garland wrote in a memo announcing the task force. “We look forward to working with our federal government colleagues to bring to justice those who seek to profit unlawfully from the pandemic.”
To date, DOJ has charged nearly 600 defendants with crimes related to the COVID-19 pandemic. These crimes involve more than $600 million in 56 federal districts around the country. In February, a southeastern Michigan woman who owned and operated a home health agency in Indiana was indicted on charges she intentionally misappropriated Provider Relief Fund proceeds and used them for her own personal expenses. Other egregious examples include: five Michigan men indicted by a grand jury on multiple federal charges for fraudulently obtaining and misappropriating PPP loan funds totaling approximately $1.495 million; a Florida man who fraudulently obtained approximately $3.9 million in PPP loans and used the funds to buy a $318,000 Lamborghini; and, a Virginia woman who pled guilty to an unemployment fraud scheme totaling nearly $500,000.
For more on the Provider Relief Fund, see the MAC Matters article dated June 14, 2021, available to MAC members here.
Office of the Attorney General, Press Release 21-452, “Attorney General Announces Task Force to Combat COVID-19 Fraud”
AG Memorandum on COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force