Justice Department arrests nearly 3,200 for COVID relief-related fraud

When billions of dollars of pandemic-related relief money started pouring into the economy, it was inevitable criminals would grab what they could. And they did. But now the law is catching up to them, even capturing an alleged murder-for-hire plot.

The federal government announced in late August that it has charged 3,195 people in pandemic relief money fraud. The government has cracked down hard on people and businesses who are alleged to have stolen the people's money. In 2020, both political parties signed off on $5 trillion dollars in coronavirus relief money.

Let's run some quick numbers from a three-month, summer crime crackdown. Attorney General Merrick Garland says arrests and pending investigations are connected to $8.6 billion in stolen money. So far, the federal government has charged nearly 3,200 defendants for offenses related to pandemic fraud, and they've seized more than $1.4 billion in relief funds. There are 371 defendants, and the Associated Press reports more than 60 of those are part of organized crime.

Some of the cases involved $7 million in missing Medicare money. A New Jersey man stands accused of filing $124 million in false tax returns. One group of cases goes back to a Milwaukee street gang that federal prosecutors say wanted to buy guns and use them for a murder-for-hire plot. It's a challenge to get this money back once it's gone and used, but the AG's office is trying.

The most porous part of the money being put into the economy was from unemployment funding. That's where the every-man dipped in to get money that didn't belong to him or her.