US Secret Service Investigating Hundreds of Fraud Cases Linked to Funds for Pandemic Relief

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More than 900 fraud cases linked to pandemic-related relief funds are being investigated, said a U.S. Secret Service statement issued Tuesday.

In the statement, the Secret Service added there was potentially fraudulent activity nearing $100 billion related to the relief funds last year.

The $100 billion figure is based on the aggregate of two previous reports by the Inspector General that have been public for months and looked at issues in 2020. There is no new research, data, or analysis of fraud, the statement noted. Presumably, that figure is now higher.

Most of the loss has come from unemployment benefits improperly disbursed, said the statement.

“The exploitation of pandemic-related relief is an investigative priority for the Secret Service and its partners,” it added.

The statement also announced the appointment of Assistant Special Agent in Charge, Roy Dotson, as the service’s coordinator of national pandemic fraud recovery.

“The Secret Service currently has more than 900 active criminal investigations into fraud specific to pandemic-related relief funds,” Dotson said.

“That’s a combination of pandemic benefits and all the other benefits programs too. Every state has been hit, some harder than others,” he said.

“The Secret Service is hitting the ground running, trying to recover everything we can, including funds stolen from both federal and state programs.”

In his new role, Dotson will organize investigation efforts with financial institutions, money service businesses, and federal agencies into tracking and recovering the stolen funds, which include Small Business Administration (SBA) loans, unemployment insurance, and other grant programs.

Fraud related to personal protective equipment (PPE) was of primary concern to law enforcement, including the Secret Service, early in the pandemic, the statement said, adding that the release of federal funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act attracted the “attention of individuals and organized criminal networks worldwide.”

Many people associate the Secret Service with protecting key political personalities in the country, including the president. But, the department also handles investigations of financial crimes.

By Naveen Athrappully

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