United States accuses nearly 500 people of COVID-19 fraud and criminal activity
The US Department of Justice (DoJ) has indicted 474 people for participating inscams and fraudulent activities.
For some cybercriminals, the coronavirus pandemic is nothing more than an opportunity for profit. We’ve seen it all from fake COVID ‘cures’ and protective gear vendors touting their products online to phishing email and text vaccine dating campaigns, and now dubious vendors are going so far as to try and sell counterfeit vaccines and proof documents on the subway.
Law enforcement agencies around the world have tried to crack down on these activities and organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO), are constantly to give advice on the latest scams.
In an update released last week, the DoJ said that 474 defendants to date have been publicly charged with “criminal offenses based on fraud schemes linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The US agency says these suspected criminals are responsible for attempting to fraudulently obtain at least $ 569 million from consumers and the US government itself in 56 federal districts.
Law enforcement investigations revealed a variety of scams, including operations targeting the U.S. Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDL) and the Unemployment Insurance (UI) scheme, all designed to help businesses and citizens during the pandemic.
A total of 120 people have been charged with PPE fraud, including:
- Business owners inflate payroll taxes to secure large loans
- Shell companies with no real pay who ask for financial help
- Organized criminal gangs submitting carbon copy loan applications under the name of different companies
One of the department’s latest COVID-19 convictions centered on Dinesh Sah, a resident of Coppell, Texas. The 55-year-old pleaded guilty last week for defrauding to obtain $ 24.8 million in PPP loans and launder payments.
When it comes to EIDL, designed to provide loans to SMEs, criminals have also sought help on behalf of non-existent, new and fictitious companies.
Unemployment insurance fraud is also widespread, with at least 140 people suspected of committing these activities. The DoJ says the suspects include “inmate identity thieves” who have committed identity theft to claim unemployment benefits.
In one case, a Virginia defendant pleaded guilty to obtaining nearly half a million dollars on behalf of people ineligible for UI, including those currently in prison.
“We will not allow US citizens or the essential employee benefit programs that were created to help them fall prey to those seeking to take advantage of this national emergency,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian Boynton said. of the Civil Division of the DoJ. “We are proud to work with our law enforcement partners to hold offenders accountable and protect taxpayer funds.”
In other coronavirus news, Facebook has frozen a page owned by Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro for repeatedly breaking the social media giant’s rules on COVID-19 disinformation, including promoting bogus herbal remedies for the disease. As a result, the Venezuelan manager will not be able to post for 30 days. False coronavirus claims were previously suppressed and hidden by Facebook and Twitter after being posted by former US President Donald Trump.
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