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Nearly $100B stolen in US pandemic relief funds: Secret Service

Americans lost their jobs during pandemic line up to attend a job fair in Inglewood, California, US, on Sept. 9, 2021. (Via Getty Images)

At least $100 billion has been stolen from  coronavirus relief programs set up to help American businesses and people who lost their jobs due to the pandemic, the US Secret Service has revealed.

The estimate is based on Secret Service cases and data from the Labor Department and the Small Business Administration, said Roy Dotson, the agency’s national pandemic fraud recovery coordinator.

The Secret Service said there are more than 900 active criminal investigations into fraud related to coronavirus relief funds.

“That’s a combination of pandemic benefits and all the other benefits programs too. Every state has been hit, some harder than others", Dotson said. "The Secret Service is hitting the ground running, trying to recover everything we can, including funds stolen from both federal and state programs”.

Among the affected funds are unemployment insurance (UI), US Small Business Administration (SBA) loan and grant programmes.

The United States designated some $3 trillion in COVID relief in order to help families, workers, and businesses weather in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.

The investigation into pandemic fraud includes multiple agencies, with the Secret Service engaging with them through its Cyber Fraud Task Forces (CFTF). 

The use of cryptocurrency in the pandemic fraud is also investigation that involve "the use of unsuspecting victims as money mules to move stolen funds from one account to another within the cyber arena".

The Secret Service also said it had seized more than $1.2 billion and returned more than $2.3 billion fraudulently obtained funds. At least 100 people have been taken into custody, suspected of being responsible for UI and SBA loan fraud.

A massive coronavirus relief package in the US was introduced by the Trump administration in March 2020, envisaging over $3 trillion in aid for families, workers, businesses, state and local governments, along with American industry. 

The coronavirus relief package introduced in the US in March 2020 consisted of four pieces of legislation: the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement (PPPHCE) Act, and the Response & Relief Act.

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