HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - The Eastern District of Virginia is taking action against COVID-19 related fraud, including schemes targeting the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program and Unemployment Insurance (UI) programs.
According to a release from the EDVA, it has charged more than 30 defendants with criminal offenses based on COVID-19 related fraud since the beginning of 2021. The cases involve attempts to defraud more than $105 million from the United States government and private officials.
The EDVA’s efforts to combat COVID-19-related fraud schemes in 2021 have proceeded on numerous fronts, including:
- Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) fraud: The PPP fraud cases charged in EDVA this year range from individual business owners inflating their payroll expenses to obtain larger loans than they otherwise would have qualified for, to serial fraudsters applying for multiple loans using false claims about business entities and income. Most defendants used the loan money for prohibited purchases like houses, cars, aircraft, jewelry and other luxury items.
- Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) fraud: Fraud against the EIDL program has involved fraudsters applying for advances and loans on behalf of ineligible, newly-created, shell or nonexistent businesses.
- Unemployment Insurance (UI) fraud: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more than $860 billion in federal funds were appropriated for UI benefits through September 2021. Early investigation and analysis indicate that international organized criminal groups have targeted these funds by using stolen identities to file for UI benefits. Domestic fraudsters, ranging from identity thieves to prison inmates, have also committed UI fraud, including one defendant who used the personal identifying information of over 30 Virginia prison inmates to obtain nearly $437,000 in unemployment benefits.
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) fraud: These schemes often offered to sell scarce PPE to various medical supply companies, government entities and consumers, exploiting the nation's need for PPE to protect medical professionals and the public.
- Economic Impact Payments (Stimulus Checks) Fraud: EDVA has also worked to investigate and prosecute fraudsters who attempted financial scams, counterfeiting of checks, and mail, and identity theft targeting COVID-19 stimulus checks.
EDVA is also working to shut down fraudulent websites facilitating consumer scams related to COVID-19, including seven websites used to collect personal information and exploit the increased interest in vaccines, treatments and employment opportunities associated with the pandemic.
To report a COVID-19-related fraud scheme or suspicious activity, contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) by calling the NCDF Hotline at 1-866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.