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Pandemic Hobbies

Senior Director of Strategic Alliances
LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

While we sheltered inside to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus, a whole new culture started, which included cleaning groceries with sanitized wipes, excessively washing our hands and social distancing as the new norms. Empty days got filled with “I wish I had more time to do that” hobbies like baking, puzzles, and reading. People even took this time of isolation to try new activities. Demand for needles and yarn spiked by 90% in 2020. The COVID pandemic has led to a huge resurgence of interest in gardening. And apparently people became fraudsters.

An Associated Press analysis found fraudsters have stolen more than $280 billion in COVID-19 relief funding. About 10% of all Covid relief aid awarded was fraudulent, around double the rate of all the other U.S. government benefits. What was intended to help aid in thwarting an economic crisis during the pandemic, appeared to be easy money to obtain with little to no risk. The government, in seeking to quickly spend trillions in relief aid, conducted too little oversight during the pandemic’s early stages and instituted too few restrictions on applicants.  So, people normally not inclined to criminal behavior, jumped on the bandwagon of fraud. Actions that were normally deemed inappropriate became almost socially acceptable. Well, this pandemic trend is illegal. And the government is taking action.

On August 23, 2023, the U.S. Justice Department announced that as result of a three-month operation by the COVID-19 Fraud Task Force they have arrested over 300 people and charged them with the theft of $830 million in alleged COVID-19 fraud. To date, nearly 3,200 defendants have been charged with COVID-19 aid fraud and $1.4 billion in stolen pandemic aid has been seized. That is a drop in the bucket of COVID-19 aid that has been stolen. But the government isn’t going to stop finding these fraudsters. The Justice Department announced it was creating more strike forces to combat COVID-19 fraud in Colorado and New Jersey, joining those already in operation in California, Florida, and Maryland.

Shout out the COVID-19 Fraud Task Force. Bring on the other states!

Today’s Fraud of The Day is based on article “Justice Department announces charges against hundreds of alleged COVID-19 fraudsters” published by the 23 ABC Bakersfield on August 23, 2023

Hundreds of people have been charged with the theft of more than $830 million in COVID-19 emergency aid following a nationwide operation conducted by federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, the U.S. Justice Department announced Wednesday.

More than 60 of the defendants have alleged connections to organized crime, the department said, including members of a criminal gang accused of using stolen pandemic aid to pay for a murder.

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