The IRS announced Wednesday that it has identified over $1.8 billion in COVID-19 fraud.
To help the US economy recover two years after Trump’s first trillion-dollar stimulus plan gave $1,200 checks to individuals and forgiven loans to small businesses, the IRS said it has dropped 660 criminal cases.
This includes unlawfully obtained loans, credits and payments destined for American employees, families, and small companies, according to the IRS Criminal Investigation division.
Many of them are wire fraud cases where persons lied about their financial or company condition to get money from the government.
In one example, the CEO of a dormant nonprofit admitted to falsely about having 25 employees and a monthly payroll of over $120,000.
The Paycheck Protection Program put over $300,000 into his personal account.
IRS stated in December 2021 that the NGO had no workers or payroll expenses.
The agency also reported a married pair who submitted over 150 fake loan applications using stolen and made-up identities, including those of deceased people and foreign exchange students.
The federal government has already spent about $3.6 trillion and plans to spend another $4.2 trillion to combat the pandemic, over 20% of the US GDP.
In May 2021, Attorney General Merrick Garland, at the White House’s request, formed a task group to investigate pandemic-related fraud.
In March, the White House announced the task team will include prosecutors and agents focused on large-scale identity theft.
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A decade of huge busts hasn’t changed the fact that the IRS Criminal Investigation division is underfunded, citing a 25% reduction in staff over the last decade.
The division earned a $21 million budget bump for new technology in the last omnibus spending bill.
The division’s role in pursuing sanctioned Russian oligarchs’ assets has prompted increasing support from the Senate Finance Committee.
“These highly-complex financial inquiries sometimes take months, if not years,” he added in a statement. “We need long-term funding to achieve success.”