Covid loan fraud: US secret services return 286 million in loot

American spies have a sense of entertainment. Last week, Special Agent Roy Dotson, who leads the intelligence investigation into Covid-related fraud, handed a giant check for $ 286 million to the Small Business Administration (SBA) as a lottery win in front of an audience. of stunned journalists.

“This is probably one of the largest criminal investigations we have ever conducted,” he said, referring to “a myriad of potential suspects”, possible international ramifications and new developments to come. “This is just a case. [parmi d’autres]. It will take a long time … “added Roy Dotson.

This is an identity theft scam, all things classic in the US. The criminals used stolen social security numbers and fake employer IDs to open more than 15,000 bank accounts with Green Dot Bank, a Texas-based online bank.

Then they subscribed to the SBA the Covid loans granted to professionals in the event of an “economic disaster” (EIDL), then they went to debit the funds at the ATM. It was the Florida Secret Service that detected the fraud and worked with the bank to identify the fake accounts.

100 billion in embezzlement of Covid aid

The secret services have opened 3,850 investigations to find the Covid money. They claim they have already returned $ 2.3 billion to the SBA since 2020, including $ 1.4 billion in fraud. A drop in the ocean of the embezzlement of Covid aid, which they estimate at 100 billion dollars.

It’s unemployment insurance, health coverage, small business support fund fraud … The amount is considerable, but it has to be compared to the trillions of dollars in aid paid into the country.

According to the SBA, in particular, fraud on Eidl loans could amount to a total of 87 billion dollars, or more than 20% of the 390 billion disbursed during the epidemic.

Another Covid device aimed at small businesses, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), may have been subject to even more massive hijackings. Last year, the police mentioned up to 400 billion frauds out of 961 billion PPPs served between April 2020 and June 2021. At least half would end up in the pockets of foreign criminals: Russian mobsters, Chinese hackers, Nigerian scammers … Organized gangs who allegedly laundered and brought money out of the country via online payment apps or smugglers.

A global fraud

For example, it is not only in France that we are concerned about an outbreak of “Covid fraud”. Around the world, exceptional measures to support the economy and families during the health crisis have spurred finches’ creativity, especially as surveillance has also eased.

In the UK, the Ministry of Economy estimated the fraud at £ 4.9 billion, or € 5.8 billion. The scammers took advantage of the “loan repayment” system. These state-guaranteed loans were granted to SMEs within 48 hours, based on their own statements. The program was much more successful than expected (£ 47bn borrowed) and triggered a boom in business creation (+ 20%) which is probably more than due to the entrepreneurial spirit of honest people.

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