US watchdog identifies $5.4 billion in potentially fraudulent COVID-19 loans

The watchdog, the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC), said it had “identified 69,323 questionable Social Security Numbers (SSNs) used to land $5.4 billion from the COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan (COVID -19 EIDL) and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) from the Small Business Administration (SBA)”.

The loans were disbursed between April 2020 and October 2022, the watchdog said in its report, which comes ahead of a hearing scheduled for Wednesday by the Republican-led House Oversight Committee on US fraud. pandemic-related expenses.

The United States is investigating several cases of fraud related to US government assistance programs, such as the Wage Protection Program, unemployment insurance and Medicare. In May 2021, Attorney General Merrick Garland launched a COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force.

Last year, the U.S. Justice Department appointed federal attorney Kevin Chambers to lead its efforts to investigate fraudsters who used the pandemic as a pretext to defraud government aid programs.

In September, the U.S. Labor Department’s inspector general said fraudsters likely stole $45.6 billion from the U.S. unemployment insurance program during the coronavirus outbreak, using tactics such as using social security numbers on deceased people.

Also in September, federal prosecutors indicted dozens of defendants accused of stealing $250 million from a government aid program meant to feed needy children during the pandemic.

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