Exceptional aid, exceptional fraud: more than eight billion dollars have been embezzled as part of embezzlement of financial support measures adopted in the United States since the start of the pandemic, the Department of Justice estimated on Thursday.
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A thousand people are the subject of criminal proceedings and 1,800 people or organizations of civil investigations for these frauds of a vertiginous amount, the ministry said, announcing the appointment of a chief prosecutor in charge of coordinating these frauds. efforts.
Kevin Chambers becomes director of a cell dedicated to the fight against these frauds, in accordance with a promise made by Joe Biden during a speech to Congress on March 1.
“Under my administration, the safeguards are back: we are chasing down the criminals who steal billions of dollars in aid intended for small businesses and millions of Americans”, had launched the Democratic president.
Since March 2020, more than $5 trillion has been released in the United States to help businesses and people affected by the pandemic.
As soon as the first measures were adopted, abuses were identified. Most have targeted the Wage Preservation Program (“PPE”), a loan scheme for small and medium-sized businesses, which turns into aid if they are used to preserve jobs.
In less serious cases, employers have lied about their workforce to demand sums greater than those to which they were entitled. But criminal networks have also organized themselves to create fictitious companies or multiply the files, according to the authorities.
Hundreds of people have also been arrested and charged with unemployment benefit fraud created for employees made redundant due to the pandemic. Here again, networks, some of which are based abroad, have set up elaborate scams, in particular by usurping identities.
In addition, other scams linked to the pandemic are being prosecuted by the same cell: agrefins have developed their activities on the internet, offering supposedly miraculous treatments based on bleach, silver or vitamin C infusion. after counterfeit masks, fake vaccines have also appeared on the net.