Representative Scott Franklin (R-Fla.), House Committee on Oversight and Reform Ranking Member James Comer (R-Ky.), and Oversight Republicans called on the Justice Department to provide an update on its efforts to combat and pursue COVID-19 relief stolen by transnational and state-sponsored organizations. A recent report reveals tens of billions of pandemic unemployment benefits were obtained by foreign adversaries, including China and Russia.
“The theft of up to $280 billion in unemployment benefits due to fraudulent activity by foreign adversaries and criminals is a major scandal and a breach of our national security. To put this number in perspective, the amount of pandemic relief money lost to fraud over the past 18 months is the same as we spent on the Apollo program over 13 years to put men on the moon. Where possible, the perpetrators of these crimes should be tracked down and prosecuted, and those who negligently allowed this fraud, waste, and abuse to happen must be held accountable for betraying American taxpayers’ trust. Our government simply must instill stronger oversight into distribution of tax dollars. This is unacceptable and the American people deserve better,” said Rep. Franklin.
According to a recent report, 40 percent or more of the $700 billion spent on pandemic-related unemployment benefits went to fraud. This includes $175 billion to transnational actors with $140 billion of that—20 percent of the overall amount spent by the U.S. government—going to state-sponsored entities. The Department of Justice recently told Republican committee staff it has charged nearly $1 billion in intended loss of COVID-19 relief to fraud, but based on estimates, this means there are still hundreds of billions in unidentified loss. The Justice Department also refused to share how many active cases involve transnational organizations or state-sponsored organizations.
“It’s unacceptable that tens of billions of taxpayer dollars were stolen by foreign adversaries. Americans’ hard-earned money shouldn’t be lining the pockets of Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin, and their cronies who are opposed to our interests. The Justice Department must provide us with answers about how it plans to combat and prosecute these crimes. For nearly a year I’ve sounded the alarm about massive fraud in pandemic unemployment benefits, but Oversight Committee Democrats have refused to hold a single hearing on this gross mismanagement of taxpayer dollars. The mission of the Oversight Committee is to root out waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement in the federal government and Republicans will continue working to ensure safeguards are in place to protect taxpayers,” said Ranking Member James Comer.
In their letter to Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, the Task Force to Combat COVID-19 Fraud Lead, the Republican lawmakers request a briefing to better understand the Justice Department’s efforts to combat transnational and state-sponsored COVID-19 related fraud schemes. Ranking Member Comer and Republican lawmakers previously called on Chairwoman Maloney (D-N.Y.) to hold a hearing on massive pandemic unemployment fraud, but she has refused.