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The U.S. Secret Service returned about $286 million in fraudulently-obtained COVID-19 relief funds it had seized to the Small Business Administration (SBA) on Friday
The Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) that the Secret Service seized were illegally obtained by conspirators who submitted loan applications that used fake or stolen employment and personal information, the agency said in a press release. Initiated by the Secret Service field office in Orlando, Florida, the investigation discovered the suspects had hidden and moved the stolen funds using Green Dot Bank.
The agency said that Green Dot Bank, a third-party payment system, aided the Secret Service with identifying the over 15,000 fraudulent accounts involved in the criminal activity.
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"OIG is focused on rooting out bad actors in these vital SBA programs," SBA Inspector General Hannibal Ware said in a statement. "I want to thank the U.S. Secret Service and our many partners in law enforcement for their tireless dedication and focused commitment to seeing justice served."
Kevin Chambers, the Department of Justice director for COVID-19 fraud enforcement, said the seizure and future ones like it are a "direct and necessary response to the unprecedented size and scope of pandemic relief fraud," according to the release.
Fraudsters have likely fraudulently obtained billions of dollars worth of EIDL and Paycheck Protection Program loans administered by the SBA. Earlier in August, President Joe Biden signed into law two bills geared toward holding people that defrauded such programs accountable.
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The Secret Service has initiated over 3,850 pandemic-related fraud investigative inquiries and investigations since 2020, the agency said in a press release. It has seized over $1.4 billion in fraudulently obtained funds and helped return around $2.3 billion to state unemployment insurance programs in the same time period.