The ‘biggest organized fraud heist’ that plundered COVID relief
While portions of official Washington rub their foreheads trying to understand how hundreds of billions of dollars and tens of thousands of lives were wasted in Afghanistan, there’s a reminder that Uncle Sam is a real pro when it comes to losing money.
Take, for example, the ongoing revelations about how much coronavirus relief money was lost to thieves, hustlers, and criminal gangs:
Russian mobsters, Chinese hackers and Nigerian scammers have used stolen identities to plunder tens of billions of dollars in Covid benefits, spiriting the money overseas in a massive transfer of wealth from U.S. taxpayers, officials and experts say. And they say it is still happening.
Among the ripest targets for the cybertheft have been jobless programs. The federal government cannot say for sure how much of the more than $900 billion in pandemic-related unemployment relief has been stolen, but credible estimates range from $87 million to $400 billion — at least half of which went to foreign criminals, law enforcement officials say.
Those staggering sums dwarf, even on the low end, what the federal government spends every year on intelligence collection, food stamps or K-12 education.
“This is perhaps the single biggest organized fraud heist we’ve ever seen,” said security researcher Armen Najarian of the firm RSA, who tracked a Nigerian fraud ring as it allegedly siphoned millions of dollars out of more than a dozen states.
All that borrowed money, stolen. And who pays for it? American taxpayers. For decades to come.