WASHINGTON – U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, this week, directed the establishment of the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to enhance enforcement efforts against COVID-19 related fraud.
“The Department of Justice will use every available federal tool—including criminal, civil, and administrative actions—to combat and prevent COVID-19 related fraud. We look forward to working with our federal government colleagues to bring to justice those who seek to profit unlawfully from the pandemic,” wrote Attorney General Garland in a memo announcing the Task Force.
The federal government responded to the far-reaching economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic with critical COVID-19 relief to workers and businesses affected by the pandemic. There has already been extraordinary vigilance, across the federal government, to help ensure that those much-needed public funds make it to Americans who are depending on them to feed their families and keep their businesses open. While it is impossible to keep all those intent on carrying out illegal COVID fraud schemes from doing so, the Department of Justice and its partner agencies have already been working to hold hundreds of bad actors accountable.
The Task Force will augment and incorporate the existing coordination mechanisms within the Department and will continue to work in close coordination with other efforts underway throughout the federal government. It will work closely with the Department’s interagency partners to share information and insights gained from prior enforcement experience, in order to reduce the potential threat to the American people and COVID-19 relief, and will help agencies tasked with administering these significant relief programs increase their fraud prevention efforts by providing any appropriate information law enforcement learns about fraud trends and illicit tactics. Additionally, it will also bolster efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminals, prevent the exploitation of government assistance for personal and financial gain, and recover stolen funds.
Organized and led by the Deputy Attorney General, the Task Force includes several entities within the Department of Justice, including the Criminal and Civil Divisions, the Executive Office for United States Attorneys, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Key interagency partners, such as the Department of Labor, the Department of the Treasury, the Department of Homeland Security, the Small Business Administration, the Special Inspector General for Pandemic Relief (SIGPR), the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC), and others, have been invited to be part of the Task Force.
The Department of Justice needs the public’s assistance in remaining vigilant and reporting suspected fraudulent activity. To report suspected fraud, contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) at (866) 720-5721 or file an online complaint at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/webform/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form. Complaints filed will be reviewed at the NCDF and referred to federal, state, local, or international law enforcement or regulatory agencies for investigation.