By Arsenio Toledo
The United States federal government allocated more than $5 trillion in taxpayers’ money to Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) relief and stimulus programs. But a still undetermined amount was fraudulently siphoned off, likely amounting to the “biggest fraud that the country has seen,” according to the Americans for Tax Reform (ATR).
Dan Savickas, director of tech policy for the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, noted that the taxpayer dollars the government dedicated to relief programs “came with very few safeguards to ensure they ended up in the hands of families and businesses that actually needed it.” (Related: Small Business Administration may have given away $1.3 billion in COVID-19 relief to FOREIGNERS and criminal organizations.)
“It’s estimated that every dollar of wages saved by the relief money cost American taxpayers $4.13,” continued Savickas. “This is not to mention also the inflation that came as a result of this profligate spending.”
“Too many special interests were able to take advantage of the language of these relief bills to line their pockets, leaving taxpayers on the hook,” he added.
The largest source of fraud seems to be the pandemic Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits, with the Department of Labor‘s inspector general suggesting that at least $163 billion may have been improperly paid.
Around $45.6 billion of the stolen UI benefits money may have been due to fraudulent payments “to individuals with Social Security numbers: (1) filed in multiple states, (2) of deceased persons, (3) of federal prisoners and (4) used to file UI claims with suspicious email accounts,” read the inspector general’s report.
Another large source of fraud may be the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, a program intended for small businesses to apply for low-interest loans to cover the paychecks of their employees and other operating costs during the pandemic.
According to the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, an estimated $784 billion out of the $800 billion in taxpayer money allocated to PPP loans may have been obtained fraudulently.
Another source of fraud includes the more than $1 billion in COVID relief that was illicitly obtained by foreign applicants who signed up for relief programs using foreign IP addresses, including addresses located in Cuba, Iran, Russia and China.
True extent of COVID relief fraud likely to be unknown for years
State and federal authorities are currently investigating or charging hundreds of individuals for stealing taxpayer dollars. This includes more than 1,000 people who have already been slapped with charges for UI benefits fraud since March 2020.
State and federal authorities are currently investigating or charging dozens of individuals for stealing millions. One of the biggest cases involves 47 people, led by a Minnesota resident who allegedly stole over $250 million in taxpayer dollars that were supposed to go to programs feeding needy kids in the state during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Florida, a man recently pleaded guilty in federal court to wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and illegal monetary transaction after he stole more than $7.2 million in PPP loan money. In Southern California, a man was recently sentenced to four years in federal prison after he stole more than $5 million in COVID-19 relief loans through three shell companies. He was also ordered to pay the government back $5.15 million in restitution.
The three cases presented above are just some of the largest instances of COVID-19 relief fraud. Only $10 billion worth of fraudulent payments has been recovered.
“It’s not an exaggeration that this is probably the biggest fraud that the country has seen,” said ATR Federal Affairs Manager Mike Palicz. “The top voter issue right now is inflation. To have that driven by spending that’s gone to record-setting fraud is infuriating.”
“No one really knows what the true number is [for fraudulent payments total, except that it is] really big, which is terrifying,” Palicz added.
Watch this clip from “The Evening Edit” on Fox Business as host Elizabeth MacDonald interviews Florida Rep. Byron Donalds about who should be blamed for the massive amount of COVID-19 relief fraud.
This is from the News Clips channel on Brighteon.com.