NATIONAL NEWS

Justice Department announces charges against hundreds of alleged COVID-19 fraudsters

Aug 23, 2023, 1:13 PM

FILE - Attorney General Merrick Garland accompanied by Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco speaks d...

FILE - Attorney General Merrick Garland accompanied by Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco speaks during a meeting at Department of Justice in Washington, June 14, 2023. Hundreds of people have been charged with the theft of more than $830 million in COVID-19 emergency aid following a nationwide operation conducted by federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, the U.S. Justice Department announced Wednesday. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Hundreds of people have been charged with the theft of more than $830 million in COVID-19 emergency aid following a nationwide operation conducted by federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, the U.S. Justice Department announced Wednesday.

More than 60 of the defendants have alleged connections to organized crime, the department said, including members of a criminal gang accused of using stolen pandemic aid to pay for a murder.

“This latest action, involving over 300 defendants and over $830 million in alleged COVID-19 fraud, should send a clear message: 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,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.

The three-month operation, which ended in July, resulted in more than 300 people being charged,, underscoring the pervasiveness of the fraud.

“We’ll stay at it for as long as it takes,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, who led of a meeting of law enforcement officials livestreamed on the Justice Department’s website.

An Associated Press analysis published in June found that fraudsters potentially stole more than $280 billion in COVID-19 relief funding; another $123 billion was wasted or misspent.

Most of the money was grabbed from three large pandemic-relief initiatives designed to help small businesses and unemployed workers survive the economic upheaval caused by the pandemic. Nearly 3,200 defendants have been charged with COVID-19 aid fraud, according to the new Justice Department figures. About $1.4 billion in stolen pandemic aid has been seized.

The murder-for-hire case cited by Justice officials involved alleged members of a Milwaukee gang known as the Wild 100s, according to court records. Federal prosecutors said they stole millions of dollars in pandemic unemployment assistance and used part of the money to purchase guns, drugs and to pay to have a person killed.

The federal indictment identifies the victim in the Wisconsin case only by the initials N.B. and doesn’t specify how much of the plundered cash was used to finance the slaying.

The Justice Department also said Wednesday it was creating more strike forces to combat COVID-19 fraud in Colorado and New Jersey, joining those already in operation in California, Florida and Maryland.

“I don’t see an end,” said Mike Galdo, the department’s acting director for COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement. “Based on what we’ve seen from the scope of the fraud, I don’t see an end to our work.”

National News

Associated Press

High school president writes notes thanking fellow seniors — 180 of them

Emily Post would be proud. A high school class president in Massachusetts who gave a commencement speech wanted to recognize all of his fellow graduates. So he wrote them personal thank-you notes presented at the ceremony — 180 to be exact. “I wish I could’ve acknowledged you all, but there was simply not enough time,” […]

59 minutes ago

Associated Press

AP-NORC poll: About half of US adults approve of Trump’s conviction, but views of him remain stable

NEW YORK (AP) — About half of U.S. adults approve of Donald Trump’s recent felony conviction, according to a poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. The survey shows some potential vulnerabilities, along with some signs of resilience in his support, as Trump tries to become the first American with a felony […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Judge faces inquiry after Illinois attorney was kicked out of court and handcuffed to chair

CHICAGO (AP) — Cook County’s top judge has asked state regulators to review allegations that an attorney was handcuffed to a chair after a judge kicked him out of her courtroom. Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans referred misconduct allegations against Judge Kathy Flanagan to the state Judicial Inquiry Board on Friday, the Chicago Sun-Times […]

3 hours ago

jerry west...

Tim Reynolds, The Associated Press

Jerry West, a 3-time Hall of Fame selection and the NBA logo, dies at 86

Jerry West, a three-time Basketball Hall of Fame inductee whose silhouette is considered to be the basis of the NBA logo, died Wednesday morning.

3 hours ago

Associated Press

One of several South Dakota baseball players charged in rape case pleads guilty to lesser felony

MITCHELL, S.D. (AP) — One of the several former players on an American Legion baseball team in South Dakota charged last year with rape has pleaded guilty to a lesser felony. The 19-year-old former Mitchell player pleaded guilty to one count of accessory to a felony, according to court documents cited by KELO-TV on Tuesday. […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

Biden and Zelenskyy will sign a security agreement between the US and Ukraine when they meet at G7

ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE (AP) — President Joe Biden and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will sign a bilateral security agreement between the U.S. and Ukraine on Thursday when they meet on the sidelines of the Group of Seven summit in Italy, aiming to send a signal to Russia of American resolve in supporting Kyiv, the White […]

5 hours ago

Justice Department announces charges against hundreds of alleged COVID-19 fraudsters