Secret Service recovers $286 million in stolen pandemic loans

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Secret Service said Friday it has recovered $286 million in fraudulently obtained pandemic loans and is returning them to the Small Business Administration.

An investigation initiated by the Secret Service’s Orlando office found that alleged co-conspirators used false or stolen employment and personal information to file applications for economic damage disaster loans and to obtain criminal proceeds. He said he was found to have used an online bank green dot to hide and move.

The agency worked with Green Dot to identify approximately 15,000 accounts and seize $286 million associated with the accounts.

“This forfeiture effort and future efforts are a direct and necessary response to the unprecedented scale and scope of the pandemic relief scam,” said Kevin Chambers, director of the Justice Department’s COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Division.

Billions of dollars have been fraudulently claimed through various pandemic relief programs, including paycheck protection program loans, unemployment insurance, and more, deployed in the midst of a global pandemic that brought the global economy to a halt for months.

In March, the Government Accountability Office report The agency was able to quickly distribute COVID-19 relief funds, but due in part to “weak financial controls,” the trade said it “did not have systems in place to prevent and identify payment errors and fraud.” there was an off.

As a result, GAO recommends several measures to agencies to prevent fraud in pandemic programs in the future, including improved reporting on fraud risk management efforts.

Since 2020, the Secret Service has initiated more than 3,850 pandemic-related fraud investigations, seized more than $1.4 billion in fraudulently obtained funds, and helped return $2.3 billion to state unemployment insurance programs. did.

The latest seizure involved cooperation between the Secret Service, the SBA’s Inspector General, the DOJ, and other offices.

Small Business Administration auditor Hannibal “Mike” Ware said the joint investigation “will ensure that taxpayer dollars ill-gotten are returned to taxpayers and that the fraudsters involved face justice.” In order to do so, he said he would continue.