Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco Announces Results of Nationwide COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Action
Remarks as Prepared for the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force Roundtable
Good morning. Thank you for all for being here to discuss the results of the Department’s recently completed COVID Fraud enforcement sweep. And thanks to each of you here in the room and to the teams you represent for the incredible work reflected in the actions we are announcing today and those since the start of the pandemic – they are a testament to our collective commitment to combat pandemic-related fraud.
I want to thank – in particular – the Acting Director of the COVID Fraud Enforcement Task Force, Michael Galdo, who joins me here today and who has dedicated significant time to this effort alongside many of you over the last two years. In a few minutes, Acting Director Galdo will provide additional specifics on our recent actions.
Combating all types of fraud is a top Justice Department priority. That is especially true when the fraud involves exploitation of the suffering of others.
Trillions of dollars in pandemic relief went to those in need, to help Americans and their businesses surmount a once-in-a-generation public health emergency. But there were some in the United States and abroad who exploited the crisis to engage in benefit fraud, to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars, according to recent data.
In May 2021, the Attorney General created the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force, deploying available resources from across the Department and across the government, to identify and prosecute fraudsters and recoup stolen government funds.
The investigative partners represented here today have worked hand-in-hand with prosecutors to combine cutting-edge data analysis with old-fashioned detective work to bring fraudsters to justice and return stolen funds to taxpayers.
Last September, to increase our focus, efficiency, and collaboration, the Department of Justice launched three interagency COVID Fraud Strike Forces – in Maryland, South Florida, and California. I am grateful to have with us today representatives of each of those Strike Forces.
This summer, all three Strike Forces, working with over 50 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, the Department’s Criminal and Civil Divisions, and our investigative partners, collaborated on a cross-country COVID fraud enforcement sweep.
This morning, I am pleased to announce that, during this 3-month sweep, we undertook more than 700 enforcement actions involving over $830 million in fraud. And as of today, we have already seized more than $200 million through criminal and civil forfeiture actions.
These nationwide enforcement actions targeted a wide range of criminal activity – from violent criminals to transnational crime groups to fraud on the IRS.
The sweep included:
- The disruption of 30 members of a street gang in Wisconsin who used proceeds from an unemployment fraud scheme to solicit murder for hire and purchase firearms and drugs;
- Charges against four members of an international organized pandemic relief fraud and money laundering scheme involving Nigeria; and
- A defendant in California who defrauded the IRS of over $60 million in Employee Retention Credits.
But our work is far from done. We will continue to prosecute those who have committed pandemic relief fraud, at home and abroad. We will also continue to aggressively deploy our forfeiture and restitution tools in every case to recover stolen funds.
Our focus on recovering stolen funds won’t be thwarted by fraudsters who try to hide or spend those funds before being prosecuted. We will seek judicial orders requiring convicted defendants to pay back every stolen dollar – and we have 20 years to realize those recoveries.
But make no mistake: our campaign to address pandemic relief fraud is not limited to a 3-month sweep of arrests, seizures, and prosecutions.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Department, with the help of many of you in this room, has brought criminal charges against nearly 3,200 defendants with alleged losses exceeding nearly $1.7 billion; collectively, you’ve pursued civil investigations into more than 3,000 individuals and entities for alleged misconduct in connection with pandemic relief loans totaling more than $7 billion, and together we’ve seized nearly $1.4 billion in stolen relief funds.
I applaud our team’s accomplishments to date and the collaboration and teamwork behind each case, but we are not here to declare victory. Individual accountability matters. Deterrence matters. Recovering stolen taxpayer funds matters.
To those who committed fraud and have not yet been prosecuted, know that we have an extended statute of limitations for many of these offenses. Our law enforcement team is using sophisticated techniques to generate new investigative leads every day.
And we know what works. Our three COVID Fraud Enforcement Strike Force teams – operating out of U.S. Attorneys’ Offices in the Southern District of Florida, the District of Maryland, and a joint effort between the Central and Eastern Districts of California – have been critical to the successful enforcement actions announced today.
Since their launch, these teams of prosecutors, agents, and analysts have done tremendous work. I am grateful for their hard work and the strong commitment from each of the Strike Force U.S. Attorneys to investigate and prosecute these cases.
Today, we’re building on that proven model. I’m very pleased to announce that today we are launching two additional Strike Forces, one in Colorado and one in New Jersey, underscoring our commitment to pursue pandemic relief fraud around the country. Thank you to the U.S. Attorney from the District of New Jersey Philip Sellinger and the First Assistant from the District of Colorado Matt Kirsch for joining us today and for the work your offices will do with these new Strike Forces.
I am proud of what our prosecutors and each of the investigative partners represented here today have accomplished together. We’ll stay at it for as long as it takes. Our efforts to pursue those who chose to defraud and steal in a time of national emergency will continue.
I will now turn it over to Acting Director Galdo to provide more details of the sweep.