Deputy Deputy AG Kevin Chambers Named Director of COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement

United States Attorney General Merrick Garland (left) stands with new pandemic fraud prosecutor Deputy Deputy AG Kevin Chambers.

Photo: Kevin Lamarque-Pool/Getty Images

As President Biden promised in his State of the Union address, the Justice Department has appointed a prosecutor for pandemic fraud.
The DOJ on Thursday appointed Assistant Deputy Attorney General Kevin Chambers as Director of COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement.

Chambers will lead Justice Department efforts that to date have resulted in criminal charges against more than 1,000 defendants with alleged losses exceeding $1.1 billion; the seizure of more than $1 billion in proceeds from economic disaster loans; and more than 240 civil investigations of more than 1,800 individuals and entities for alleged wrongdoing in connection with pandemic relief loans totaling more than $6 billion, the DOJ said.

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT

The DOJ receives an extraordinary amount of data from state labor agencies that is essential for identifying and prosecuting certain types of fraud, including unemployment insurance fraud, Chambers said.

He plans to focus on large-scale criminal enterprises and foreign actors who sought to profit at the expense of the American people. This will include the creation of strike teams.

“Our strike teams will augment existing departmental efforts and include analysts and data scientists to review data, officers to investigate cases, and prosecutors and attorneys to bring charges and adjudicate cases,” said he declared.

“The Department of Justice remains committed to using all available federal tools — including criminal, civil, and administrative actions — to combat and prevent fraud related to COVID-19,” Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said. “We will continue to hold accountable those who seek to exploit the pandemic for personal gain, protect vulnerable populations, and uphold the integrity of taxpayer-funded programs.”

THE GREAT TREND

In March 2020, Congress passed the $2.2 trillion CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act. The DOJ immediately began efforts to identify, investigate, and prosecute these frauds, leveraging data analytics capabilities and partnerships.

In May 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to mobilize Department of Justice resources in partnership with agencies across government to intensify enforcement efforts. and prevention of pandemic-related fraud.

Fraud schemes involve the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), Economic Disaster Loan Program (EIDL), Unemployment Insurance (UI) programs, and combating healthcare fraud health care COVID-19.

Among the department’s efforts, the PPP and EIDL fraud cases have been the most prominent. About 500 defendants have been charged in more than 340 cases with alleged losses of more than $700 million.

The department seized more than $1 billion of EIDL loan proceeds.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, up to $860 billion in federal funds have been earmarked for unemployment insurance benefits through September 2021. Early investigations and analysis indicate that international organized crime groups have targeted these funds using stolen identities to apply for unemployment insurance benefits.

Domestic criminals, ranging from identity thieves to violent street gangs to inmates, have also committed unemployment insurance fraud. In response, the department created the National Unemployment Insurance Fraud Task Force, a multi-agency prosecutor-led task force comprised of representatives from more than eight different federal law enforcement agencies. to coordinate these efforts.

Since the start of the pandemic, more than 430 defendants have been charged and arrested for federal offenses related to unemployment insurance fraud.

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