WASHINGTON, D.C. (NBC) – The U.S. Secret Service said that almost $100 billion has been stolen from COVID-19 relief programs set up to help businesses and people who lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic, with most fraud coming from unemployment filings.
Roy Dotson, the agency’s national pandemic fraud recovery coordinator, said the estimate is based on Secret Service cases and data from the Labor Department and the Small Business Administration.
The estimated total is believed to be conservative. Some experts say as much as $400 billion has been stolen from unemployment programs alone and a big chunk of the money plundered from unemployment programs went to criminals overseas.
The U.S. Labor Department reported about $87 billion in unemployment benefits could have been paid improperly with a significant portion attributable to fraud.
The Secret Service said it has seized more than $1.2 billion while investigating unemployment insurance and loan fraud. It has returned more than $2.3 billion of fraudulently obtained funds by working with financial partners and states to reverse transactions.
The Secret Service said it has more than 900 active criminal investigations into pandemic fraud. 100 people have been arrested so far.