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The US Secret Service has recovered millions in aid against Covid-19

The US Secret Service has recovered millions in aid against Covid-19

(CNN) — U.S. Secret Service investigators have seized $286 million in illegally obtained coronavirus relief funds, the agency announced Friday.

An investigation by the service’s field office in Orlando, Florida, determined that the conspirators fraudulently submitted applications for pandemic relief loans to small businesses “using false or stolen personal and employment information.” According to the agency. The US Secret Service said criminals used third-party payment methods and more than 15,000 accounts to hide and move illegal funds.

Two years after the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the US Secret Service has stepped up efforts to pursue criminals who illegally obtained pandemic relief funds.

“Since 2020, the Secret Service has fraudulently obtained more than $1.4 billion in funds and helped refund about $2.3 billion to state unemployment insurance programs,” the agency said Friday, adding that it has launched nearly 4,000 investigations.

“The agency has shown a clear and strong commitment to the vitality of American business,” said David Smith, deputy director of the U.S. Secret Service’s Bureau of Investigation, by helping to recover $2.3 billion stolen over the past 30 months.

“The Secret Service is dedicated to protecting the integrity of the nation’s financial systems against fraud and holding those responsible for their crimes accountable,” Smith said in a statement.

Earlier this month, President Joe Biden signed two bipartisan bills to tackle criminal fraud committed under pandemic relief programs. Both laws extend the time for attorneys to prosecute individuals who defrauded the Paycheck Protection Program or the Covid-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program, extending criminal and civil action against the borrower to 10 years.

In December, the US Secret Service appointed a senior official, Roy Dodson, to work with law enforcement agencies across the country on the matter. Federal prosecutors in April charged 21 people with trying to defraud government health programs of $149 million through various pandemic-related scams, including selling fake COVID-19 vaccine cards and making claims for unnecessary medical tests.

In March 2021, A year after the passage of the $2 trillion CARES Act, federal investigators have identified more than $500 million in fraud and charged 474 people with crimes related to the theft of money from Covid-19 assistance programs.

— CNN’s Sandalis Duster contributed to this report.

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