As the dust of the pandemic continues to settle, the House Oversight Committee’s COVID-19 subcommittee is turning its focus toward allegations of billions of dollars in pandemic aid being stolen by international criminals. Here’s the full story.
Subcommittee chair Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, has penned a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, demanding transparency and a detailed account of the Department of Justice’s efforts to address the reported thefts.
Theft by International Actors
In his letter, Wenstrup seeks clarity on several key aspects.
He requests information about the extent of COVID-19 relief fund theft by international actors or organizations, along with a breakdown of the countries involved.
Number of Americans Affected by the Fraud
The subcommittee is also eager to know the scope of the DOJ’s investigations into these instances, as well as the number of Americans affected by the fraud.
Wenstrup asserts that the significant government spending associated with COVID-19 relief programs has not only led to inflation but has also created opportunities for fraud.
One Reason for Inflation
“This massive growth in government spending caused inflation and expanded the government to unprecedented levels,” Wenstrup said.
A Staggering Amount
The staggering amount of money spent on the U.S. COVID-19 response, totaling $4.6 trillion as of the beginning of the year, has made these concerns all the more pressing.
Fraud and Abuse
Wenstrup added, “Worse still, these costly COVID-19-era programs were rife with waste, fraud, and abuse.
Criminals inside and outside the United States stole approximately $280 billion in taxpayer funds intended for struggling families, businesses, hospitals and others.”
Foreign Criminals Stole the Funds
The subcommittee’s focus extends beyond domestic fraud, with allegations that foreign actors have played a substantial role.
Wenstrup cites a report that reveals instances of foreign actors using identity theft to siphon off COVID relief funds.
International Criminal Organizations
He wrote, “Some of these fraudulent actors were based outside the United States and may involve international criminal organizations.
Estimates imply that at least half of all stolen COVID-19 relief funds went to Russian, Chinese, and Nigerian criminals.”
As of March 2022, the department had initiated criminal and civil enforcement actions for cases involving over $8 billion in pandemic relief fraud.
However, the subcommittee’s inquiry raises questions about the extent of these actions and whether they exclusively address domestic fraud.
Detailed Staff-Level Briefing
In addition to specific information, the subcommittee seeks a detailed staff-level briefing on the DOJ’s civil and criminal actions related to pandemic relief fund fraud committed by overseas or international actors and criminal organizations.
Lifeline for Millions of American
A spokesperson for the subcommittee’s Democratic minority acknowledged the necessity of prosecuting COVID fraud, and said, “For millions of American families and small businesses, COVID-19 relief funds provided a crucial lifeline as a global pandemic threatened our nation’s health and economy.”
The Biden Administration’s Efforts
The spokesperson highlighted the Biden administration’s efforts in investigating and prosecuting fraudsters, as well as seizing stolen relief funds.
The spokesperson said, “Under the Biden administration, the Department of Justice has investigated and prosecuted fraudsters, already seizing more than $1.4 billion in stolen relief funds across the country.”
“As Republicans threaten to defund our nation’s law enforcement to shield former President Trump from justice, Select Subcommittee Democrats stand ready to support and invest in the Department’s ongoing work to hold domestic and international bad actors accountable and prevent fraud in the event of future crises,” he added.
Don’t Ask for Answers, Find Them!
Several social media users shared their thoughts on the incident.
One Twitter user wrote, “Do not demand answers, do an investigation.”
Another user added, “And yet they are fine with Ukrainian money not being audited.”
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Source: FOX News