$2B in fraudulently obtained COVID-19 relief funds recovered: Secret Service

$2B in fraudulently obtained COVID-19 relief funds recovered: Secret Service
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The Secret Service on Wednesday said it had helped in recovering around $2 billion in fraudulently obtained COVID-19 relief funds.

CNN reports that the agency has opened 690 cases of unemployment insurance fraud and 720 Payment Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loan investigations since the pandemic began. The Secret Service has recovered more than $640 million from accused fraudsters.

"The amount of unemployment insurance benefits provided in response to the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented in the history of the nation's unemployment insurance system," acting inspector general for the Labor Department, Larry Turner, said according to CNN. "Unfortunately, the significant increase in benefits made the program a target for those seeking to defraud government programs."


CNN notes that Secret Service Director James Murray recently told House lawmakers during a hearing that his agency's approach to recovering stolen funds has changed in the past year to focus on building strong prosecutions. Due to the enormous size of the coronavirus relief packages passed by Congress, Murray stated such investigations would likely continue for some time after the pandemic ebbs.

"We've probably made more than 120 arrests specific only to COVID fraud," Murray told lawmakers. "This is not something that is going to go away. The size of these packages are so notable and the opportunities that exist are going to be persistent, we're going to be addressing COVID fraud for many years to come."

Multiple instances of PPP fraud have been investigated by the Justice Department with individuals obtaining huge loans through fraudulent means.

Last week, the U.S. attorney in the Central District of California announced the arrest of Mustafa Qadiri from California for allegedly obtaining $5 million through PPP fraud. Prosecutors allege that Qadiri used the funds to buy luxury vehicles like a Lamborghini, a Ferrari and a Bentley as well as to go on luxury vacations.