WASHINGTON—Representative Scott Franklin (FL-15), a member of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, and his colleagues sent a letter on Monday to Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco requesting information on the Justice Department’s efforts to investigate and prosecute instances of COVID-19 relief fraud.
“The theft of up to $280 billion in unemployment benefits due to fraudulent activity by foreign adversaries and criminals is a major scandal and a breach of our national security,” said Rep. Franklin. “To put this number in perspective, the amount of pandemic relief money lost to fraud over the past 18 months is the same as we spent on the Apollo program over 13 years to put men on the moon. Where possible, the perpetrators of these crimes should be tracked down and prosecuted, and those who negligently allowed this fraud, waste, and abuse to happen must be held accountable for betraying American taxpayers’ trust. Our government simply must instill stronger oversight into distribution of tax dollars. This is unacceptable and the American people deserve better.”
The U.S. government has spent approximately $700 billion on unemployment benefits as part of its pandemic relief efforts. According to reports, approximately 40 percent ($280 billion) has been lost to fraud. Of the $280 billion, reports indicate that $175 billion was lost to transnational actors with $140 billion of that amount going to state-sponsored entities.
At a recent staff briefing, the Department of Justice informed the House Committee on Oversight and Reform that it has charged nearly $1 billion in intended loss, and hundreds of millions in actual loss, of COVID-19 relief to fraud. Based on estimates, this would mean there are still hundreds of billions in unidentified loss. Additionally, the Department refused to share how many active cases involve transnational or state-sponsored organizations.
Congress has a Constitutional responsibility to provide oversight of the government, including government spending. As the House of Representatives’ principal oversight Committee, the House Committee on Oversight has broad authority to investigate instances of fraud. Accordingly, Rep. Franklin’s letter requests that the Department provide a staff-level briefing addressing the following:
- The total number of current Department cases involving transnational criminal organizations aggregated by country of origin regarding COVID-19 relief funds.
- The total number of current Department cases involving state-sponsored criminal organizations aggregated by country of origin regarding COVID-19 relief funds.
- The total amount of intended loss involved in cases identified in requests (1) and (2) aggregated by country of origin regarding COVID-19 relief funds.
- The total amount of actual loss involved in cases identified in requests (1) and (2) aggregated by country of origin regarding COVID-19 relief funds.