COVID-19 scams have totaled $292 million since start of the pandemic, Justice Department says
Federal prosecutors say a U.S. crackdown on fraud linked to the coronavirus has led to indictments of individuals accused of bilking more than $292 million from patients since the start of the pandemic.
The Justice Department said Wednesday it has charged 21 people with scams totaling $149 million during the past year, after announcing in May that it had charged 14 individuals in thefts of about $143 million. Fraud targeting patients is separate from the billions of dollars in illegal schemes tied to the government’s COVID-19 relief programs.
“Today’s enforcement action reinforces our commitment to using all available tools to hold accountable medical professionals, corporate executives and others who have placed greed above care during an unprecedented public health emergency,” Kenneth Polite, head of the Justice Department’s criminal division, told reporters Wednesday.
Actual loses to U.S. agencies through the patient-linked scams has totaled about $20 million to date, Polite said.
“We will continue to hold accountable those who seek to exploit the pandemic for personal gain, to protect vulnerable populations, and to safeguard the integrity of taxpayer-funded programs,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in March, when the department appointed Kevin Chambers as the DOJ’s director for COVID fraud enforcement.
“We’re going to target large scale criminal organizations who are committing some of the largest and far-ranging fraud,” Chambers said during a fraud enforcement task force meeting in March.
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