US

Secret Service Returns $2 Billion In Unemployment Benefits Stolen During The Pandemic

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Michael Ginsberg General Assignment Reporter
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The United States Secret Service recovered more than $2 billion in stolen unemployment benefits over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, the agency announced Wednesday.

The agency seized over $640 million in fraudulently obtained unemployment benefits, and helped return over $2 billion to state unemployment programs, it announced in a press release.

Assistant Special Agent Roy Dotson told CNBC that the $2 billion was a “conservative estimate” of the amount stolen, and that many investigations are ongoing.

“This is typical of the cyber fraud we deal with annually. It’s just compounded based on additional funds [from] Covid relief,” Dotson said.

In addition to protecting the president and vice president, the Secret Service investigated financial fraud and counterfeiting.

Congress passed six pandemic-relief bills in 2020 and 2021.

The federal government provided over $800 billion in unemployment benefits for Americans impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and over $800 billion in Paycheck Protection Program loans (PPP), according to Covid Money Tracker. (RELATED: House Passes $1.9 Trillion COVID-19 Relief Bill, Heads To Biden’s Desk)

“The amount of unemployment insurance benefits provided in response to the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented in the history of the nation’s unemployment insurance system. Unfortunately, the significant increase in benefits made the program a target for those seeking to defraud government programs,” Acting Inspector General for the Department of Labor Larry D. Turner said.

Individuals who fraudulently obtained COVID-19 relief funds spent them on clothes, jewelry, cars, and gambling trips.