The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Tuesday that U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland formed a task force to combat COVID-19 related fraud.
“The pandemic has given rise to a variety of forms of fraud,” Garland wrote in a Monday memo announcing the creation of the “COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force.”
Garland said that during the pandemic, some entities have tried to unlawfully profit from and capitalize “on scarcity to peddle fake vaccines and sell millions of counterfeit N95 masks and other personal protective equipment to heath care facilities desperate to protect frontline workers.”
He further went on to describe other ways the actors and entities have conducted fraud during the COVID-19 pandemic, some of which “are unique to this pandemic; many, like identity theft to secure unemployment insurance, are
variations on common schemes.”
The Task Force Garland directed the establishment of will, among several things, find and disrupt any instances of similar fraud in the future, according to a fact sheet the DOJ provided along with its press release on the Force’s establishment.
Attorney General Garland Announces Task Force to Combat COVID-19 Fraud https://t.co/nZysWbYMkd— Justice Department (@TheJusticeDept) May 17, 2021
Furthermore, according to the DOJ, the agency will work towards investigating and prosecuting “the most culpable offenders,” help with recovering stolen funds, and work closely with “interagency partners.”
One of the ways the DOJ will work with interagency partners, according to the fact sheet, will be through information and insight-sharing from previous experience with enforcement “to reduce the potential threat to the American people and COVID-19 relief,” the fact sheet stated.
The agency will also help other agencies with relief programs, and conduct public awareness campaigns to inform the public about tactics used by fraudsters “as appropriate,” the DOJ said.
“The Department of Justice will use every available federal tool—including criminal, civil, and administrative actions—to combat and prevent COVID-19 related fraud,” Garland stated in the memo. (RELATED: Leader Of $25 Million Crowdfunded Border Wall Group Indicted Again, This Time For Tax Evasion)
The DOJ said that it had already been exercising “extraordinary vigilance” in protecting Americans from fraud schemes during the pandemic.
“The Task Force will augment and incorporate the existing coordination mechanisms within the Department,” the DOJ stated.