U.S. watchdog identifies $5.4 billion in doubtlessly fraudulent COVID-19 loans

By Kanishka Singh

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. authorities seemingly awarded about $5.4 billion in COVID-19 help to folks with questionable Social Safety numbers, a federal watchdog stated in a report launched on Monday.

The watchdog, the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC), stated it “recognized 69,323 questionable Social Safety Numbers (SSNs) used to acquire $5.4 billion from the Small Enterprise Administration’s (SBA) COVID-19 Financial Damage Catastrophe Mortgage (COVID-19 EIDL) program and Paycheck Safety Program (PPP).”

The loans have been disbursed between April 2020 and October 2022, the watchdog stated in its report, which comes forward of a scheduled Wednesday listening to by the Republican-led Home of Representatives Oversight Committee on fraud in pandemic spending.

The USA is probing many fraud instances pegged to U.S. authorities help applications, such because the Paycheck Safety Program, unemployment insurance coverage and Medicare. In Might 2021, Lawyer Common Merrick Garland launched a COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Job Drive.

Final 12 months, the U.S. Justice Division tapped federal prosecutor Kevin Chambers to steer its efforts to analyze fraudsters who used the pandemic as an excuse to bilk authorities help applications.

In September, the inspector basic for the U.S. Labor Division stated fraudsters seemingly stole $45.6 billion from america’ unemployment insurance coverage program through the coronavirus outbreak by making use of techniques like utilizing Social Safety numbers of deceased people.

Additionally in September, federal prosecutors charged dozens of defendants, who have been accused of stealing $250 million from a authorities help program that was imagined to feed kids in want through the pandemic.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington; Modifying by David Gregorio)

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