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COVID Criminals: $100 Billion in Pandemic Relief Funds Stolen, 100 Suspects Arrested.

Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program the Main Target.


Photo for: COVID Criminals: $100 Billion in Pandemic Relief Funds Stolen, 100 Suspects Arrested.

Key Points

  • $100 billion dollars in pandemic relief funds have been stolen by fraudsters.
  • The Secret Service has appointed a national pandemic fraud recovery coordinator to spearhead the many investigations.
  • To date, $2.3 billion dollars have been recovered and 100 suspects arrested.

If the government hands out $3.5 trillion dollars in relief, you can expect a few ne’er-do-wells to game the system. That’s exactly what happened with the pandemic funds; more than $100 billion dollars were stolen by individuals and, in some cases, groups targeting the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program.

The fraud was so substantial – so egregious – the Secret Service has appointed a national pandemic fraud recovery coordinator to spearhead the many investigations.

“I’ve been in law enforcement for over 29 years and worked some complex fraud investigations for 20 plus years, and I’ve never seen something at this scale,” says Assistant Special Agent in Charge Roy Dotson, who was appointed to lead the investigation.

Dotson says the programs, originally meant to help people quickly, may have been too easy to take advantage of —especially considering they were made available online.

“There’s no doubt that the programs were easily accessible online. And so, with that, comes the opportunity for bad actors to get into that mix,” he says. “It was necessary to try to get these funds out to people that were truly hurting, and no fault of anybody.”

There are currently 900 open investigations for Dotson to dig through.

“It’s a wide range because the pot was so big,” Dotson says. “You not only have your typical transnational organized groups and domestic organized groups, criminal groups, but you have individuals that decided to take advantage of that. So, there’s many different patterns and investigative intelligence that we develop that I can’t really go into. But we’ve mapped out kind of some of the different characteristics of different groups.”

Dotson says the number of recipients is “enormous” making recovery of the funds difficult —but he has been getting help from financial companies like Green Dot and PayPal.

“After the Secret Service alerted the private sector early on about the emerging fraud, numerous financial institutions proactively identified, investigated, and safeguarded against suspected fraudulent pandemic relief funds,” a Secret Service spokesperson said. “These private institutions then reached out to the Secret Service for further assistance. In coordination with companies like Green Dot Corporation and PayPal, the Secret Service was able to seize over $400 million in fraudulent funds.”

The CARES Act was passed last March to provide much-needed relief to small businesses and struggling Americans. But the fast rollout came with a $100 billion dollar price tag.

So far, $2.3 billion dollars have been recovered and more than 100 arrests have been made.