COVID Relief Fraud Nears $100 Billion, Secret Service Says

The release of COVID-19 federal relief funds has unleashed a wave of individuals and criminal networks responsible for what the Secret Service says is nearly $100 billion in stolen benefits.

The Secret Service has tapped Assistant Special Agent in Charge (ASAIC) Roy Dotson to lead the pandemic fraud recovery effort. In this role, Dotson is coordinating with financial institutions and money services businesses, U.S. attorney offices, and other federal agencies.

According to Dotson, who is based in the Jacksonville field office, the Secret Service has more than 900 active criminal investigations into pandemic-related relief fraud.

The Secret Service has established a Cyber Fraud Task Force (CFTF), partnering with federal and state, local, tribal, and territorial partners, as well as foreign law enforcement, academic, and private sector partners.

Part of these efforts will also include spearheading cryptocurrency investigations centering on unsuspecting money mules who have moved stolen funds from one account to another – a trend that also picked up during the pandemic, according to Dotson.

As of December 2021, the Secret Service says it has recovered more than $1.2 billion and returned more than $2.3 billion of fraudulently obtained funds through automated clearing house reversals. Amid these investigations, approximately 100 people have been arrested on loan fraud charges.