In March 2020, The Department of Justice (DOJ) directed federal prosecutors to prioritize their investigation and prosecution of fraud relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because so many Americans and small businesses are suffering from the economic effects of the pandemic, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The CARES Act included over $2 trillion in emergency financial funds to provide immediate assistance to small businesses, health care providers, and individuals. The CARES Act also includes the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which provided loans to small businesses, as well as Economic Impact Payments (EIPs) to provide immediate assistance to individual taxpayers. Individuals and companies have exploited the COVID-19 pandemic and have either schemed individuals or fraudulently obtained monetary assistance through the CARES Act, which is why the DOJ is committed to pursuing fraudulent activity related to COVID-19.
U.S. Attorney’s Offices across the nation have pursued criminal investigations and multiple criminal indictments against fraudsters to combat the ongoing fraud. For example, The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Texas (USAO-EDTX) has recently stated in a press release that it will “deploy all criminal and civil enforcement tools available to combat such misconduct.” Since the enactment of the CARES Act, the USAO-EDTX has prioritized the following, and it is anticipated that U.S. Attorney’s Offices across the nation are taking the same measures to combat fraud relating to the COVID-19 pandemic:
- Initiated multiple actions and investigations;
- Pursuit of individuals who use stolen identities to obtain Economic Impact Payments (EPIs);
- Charged several individuals for fraudulently obtaining millions of dollars in PPP loans;
- Recouping money lost due to fraud through the False Claims Act (FCA);
Combating CARES Act and COVID-19 fraud remains a priority for the DOJ and more criminal actions are forthcoming. If you need assistance with a fraud matter, please contact our law office.