GOP Lawmaker Questions DOJ About $280 Billion In Lost COVID Relief

Authored by Ryan Morgan by way of The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio), the chairman of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, desires to know what the U.S. Department of Justice is doing to recuperate an estimated $280 billion in U.S. COVID-19 reduction spending that allegedly flowed to criminals inside and outdoors the United States.

Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) in Washington on June 13, 2023. (Anna Rose Layden/Getty Images)

On Tuesday, Mr. Wenstrup despatched a letter (pdf) to Attorney General Merrick Garland, asking that he and the DOJ present a full account of all present and previous investigations into the misallocation of U.S. taxpayer funds as a part of COVID-19 pandemic reduction applications. Mr. Wenstrup cited a June Associated Press analysis, which estimated that round $280 billion of U.S. COVID-19 reduction spending was misplaced to fraudulent schemes carried out each inside and outdoors the nation.

Mr. Wenstrup additional cited a 2021 NBC News report, claiming a lot of the COVID reduction that was misplaced to fraud went to Russian, Chinese and Nigerian prison organizations.

Some of these fraudulent actors were based outside the United States and may involve international criminal organizations. Estimates imply that at least half of all stolen COVID-19 relief funds went to Russian, Chinese, and Nigerian criminals,” he wrote.

The U.S. authorities has been working to account for greater than $4 trillion in COVID-19 reduction spending. In addition to the $280 billion the Associated Press believes was misplaced to fraud, the media publication estimated one other $123 billion was merely wasted or misspent.

In a March 2022 press launch, the DOJ announced it had recovered about $8 billion price of COVID-19 reduction funds misplaced to fraud by way of a mixture of prison prosecutions and civil enforcement actions. That DOJ fund restoration effort quantities to about three % of the cash that will have been misplaced to fraud, and Mr. Wenstrup mentioned it is unclear simply how a lot the DOJ has recovered from prison actors dwelling overseas.

“It is highly concerning that possibly billions of taxpayer dollars intended to help Americans suffering the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic were stolen by organized criminal rings in foreign countries,” the Republican lawmaker wrote. “Therefore, we write today to better understand the full scope of this problem and what actions the Department has taken to investigate international COVID-19 relief program fraud and hold these foreign actors accountable.”

Mr. Wenstrup requested the DOJ present a country-by-country account of all present and closed COVID-19 fraud instances and greenback worth estimates of COVID-19 reduction spending they imagine went lacking in these fraud instances.

The DOJ is constant to convey new instances to recuperate COVID-19 reduction funds. Last week, the division introduced it had performed a nationwide enforcement effort resulting in 718 enforcement actions against 371 defendants, for alleged fraud offenses that resulted within the misallocation of round $836 million.

Even with this newest DOJ effort, the U.S. continues to be effectively wanting recovering the entire funds which can be seemingly lacking because of COVID-19 fraud schemes. It might take years to recuperate all of these funds, assuming they’ll all ultimately be recovered.

The COVID-19 public health emergency may have ended, but the Justice Department’s work to identify and prosecute those who stole pandemic relief funds is far from over,” Mr. Garland mentioned upon saying the newest DOJ anti-fraud efforts final week.

Legislation extending the statute of limitations to prosecute pandemic-era fraud instances has loved broad bipartisan assist.

During final week’s anti-fraud announcement, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco introduced the division had began a brand new COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Strike Force in Colorado and one other one in Delaware.

“The two new Strike Forces launched as we speak will enhance our attain as we proceed to pursue fraudsters and recuperate taxpayer funds, regardless of how lengthy it takes,” Ms. Monaco mentioned.


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