Secret Service returns $268 million in fraudulent COVID-19 relief funds loans

Secret Service returns $268 million in fraudulent COVID-19 relief funds loans

The Secret Service has returned about $286 million in wrongfully obtained COVID-relief loans to the Small Business Administration, the agency announced Friday.

The federal small business loan program was set up to help small businesses recover from the COVID-19 pandemic’s economic impacts.

Conspirators fraudulently obtained Economic Injury Disaster Loans with applications based on fabricated or stolen personal and employment information, the Secret Service said in a news release Friday. According to the Secret Service, conspirators used a debit card issuer to conceal and move the funds through over 15,000 accounts. The Secret Service worked with the debit card issuer, Green Dot Bank, to seize the $286 million.

The Secret Service has not announced any arrests.

“We applaud the hard work and dedication of the USSS and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the District of Colorado and Middle District of Florida,” Department of Justice Director for COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Kevin Chambers said in a statement. “This is an important step in returning stolen funds to the American people. This forfeiture effort and those to come are a direct and necessary response to the unprecedented size and scope of pandemic relief fraud. The Department of Justice is grateful for our partnership with the USSS and all of our law enforcement partners working to recover stolen pandemic relief funds”.

The investigation was initiated by the Secret Service field office in Orlando, Fla.

“Working closely with our Central and North Florida Cyber Fraud Task Forces, this investigation enabled the recovery of a significant amount of critical federal relief,” Assistant Special Agent in Charge Roy Dotson said in a statement.

The Secret Service says it has seized more than $1.4 billion in wrongfully obtained funds since 2020, and has begun more than 3,850 inquiries and investigations into pandemic-related fraud.

Kathryn Watson

Kathryn Watson is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital based in Washington, D.C.