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The Department of Justice (DOJ) has arrested nearly two dozen people nationwide on charges of organizing COVID-19 fraud schemes that have garnered nearly $150 million, the DOJ announced Wednesday.
The DOJ has prioritized cracking down on COVID-19 fraud since March when it appointed prosecutor Kevin Chamers as director for COVID-19 fraud enforcement. The group’s latest bust includes 21 individuals who ran schemes that defrauded Americans out of $149 million and counting, the DOJ says.
The fraudster’s charges relate to “false billings to federal programs and theft from federally-funded pandemic assistance programs.”
“This COVID-19 health care fraud enforcement action involves extraordinary efforts to prosecute some of the largest and most wide-ranging pandemic frauds detected to date,” Chambers said in a statement. “The scale and complexity of the schemes prosecuted today illustrates the success of our unprecedented interagency effort to quickly investigate and prosecute those who abuse our critical health care programs.”
Attorney General Merrick Garland steps away from the podium after speaking at a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, Monday, Nov. 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
The 21 individuals charged include medical professionals, company executives, and marketers, but they are far from the first to face federal charges relating to COVID fraud.
The DOJ announced March 10 that it had already pressed charges against more than 1,000 individuals responsible for $1.1 billion in COVID fraud. The department had also seized over $1 billion in Economic Injury Disaster Loan proceeds. There have also been more than 240 civil investigations into alleged loan schemes totaling more than $6 billion.
“The Justice Department remains committed to using every available federal tool — including criminal, civil, and administrative actions — to combat and prevent COVID-19 related fraud,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement at the time. “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.”