‘One of the Greatest Taxpayer Heists Ever’: Hundreds of Billions Stolen From COVID Relief Funds

What happens when you shut down the country and then flood it with trillions of dollars in loosely monitored aid? You get sky-high inflation, which we’re seeing–and you also get rampant fraud and theft. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the Labor Department alone was fleeced out of almost $45 billion in unemployment funds, while the NY Post estimates the total ripped off from all relief programs comes in at a staggering $600 billion. To put it in perspective, that’s almost as much as our entire 2022 military budget of $778 billion.

The Post reports:

“COVID fraud” is at this point a redundant phrase. Congress appropriated more than $5 trillion for COVID relief but almost $600 billion may have been lost to fraud — an astounding 12%. Washington’s pandemic pratfalls are the greatest federal boondoggle of this century.

Will Congress do anything about it? Not while the current majority is in control:

Even the Department of Justice has taken notice. Last month, they took a break from raiding regime opponents’ homes to set up three regional Fraud Strike Force Teams in Sacramento/San Francisco, Baltimore, and Miami.

According to their September 14 press release, the DOJ said:

“These Strike Force teams will build on the Department’s historic enforcement efforts to deter, detect, and disrupt pandemic fraud wherever it occurs,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “Since the start of this pandemic, the Justice Department has seized over $1.2 billion in relief funds that criminals were attempting to steal, and charged over 1,500 defendants with crimes in federal districts across the country, but our work is far from over. The Department will continue to work relentlessly to combat pandemic fraud and hold accountable those who perpetrate it.”

The effort might come a bit too late. You may have always thought those “Nigerian prince” emails were silly, but NBC News reported in August about the unchecked theft of funds by foreign nationals:

Russian mobsters, Chinese hackers and Nigerian scammers have used stolen identities to plunder tens of billions of dollars in Covid benefits, spiriting the money overseas in a massive transfer of wealth from U.S. taxpayers, officials and experts say. And they say it is still happening.

Here are the Labor Department Inspector General’s numbers on unemployment benefits alone:

Individuals who fraudulently claimed benefits in more than one state got away with $29 billion. Con artists who used suspicious email services designed to hide identities have claimed at least $16 billion. Swindlers using the Social Security numbers of ineligible federal prisoners and dead Americans landed some $400 million more.

The Wall Street Journal reports that House Republicans introduced anti-fraud legislation this summer, but Democrats didn’t move on it. Dems seem primarily interested in handing out cash, not keeping track of where it goes. What’s a little fraud if it gets you extra votes?

The Journal isn’t impressed:

this is one of the greatest taxpayer heists ever. The refusal by Democrats to investigate what happened and plug the leaks is an abdication of Congress’s duty to make sure government is competent. But their priority is sending more money out the door. [Emphasis mine.]

Many crimes have clearly been committed, and billions of dollars will probably never be recovered. The real crime, however, started when state, local and federal governments locked down the country, shut down commerce, and then unleashed a spending spree for the ages. The resulting fraud and inflation rob every American of a slice of their hard-earned dollars every day, and we all pay the price.

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