Recently, there have been an increasing number of pandemic fraud cases brought in federal courts across the country, including PPP, EIDL and UI fraud. With over 474 defendants charged with criminal offenses for pandemic fraud as of March 26, these cases prove that the Justice Department is aggressively investigating pandemic fraud. If you are being investigated or accused of COVID-19 related fraud, you need a criminal defense lawyer.
Pre-charge Investigation and Resolution
If you are being investigated or accused of pandemic related fraud, there may be opportunities for resolution of the matter prior to criminal charges being brought—for example, paying back the money or resolving the matter through negotiation with the government. Having criminal defense counsel can facilitate pre-charge settlement and facilitate the exchange of information between law enforcement, prosecutors, and those being investigated for PPP or EIDL improprieties.
Obstruction of Justice and Lying to Federal Agents
It is important for those being investigated or accused of pandemic related fraud not to engage in obstruction of justice or to lie to federal agents, which are separate felony offense. Rather than lie or obfuscate, it is recommendsed that anyone being investigated for a criminal offense to invoke your Constitutional right to a lawyer. Upon an unambiguous invocation of your right to counsel, law enforcement must cease all questioning.
Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Fraud
At least 120 defendants have been charged with PPP fraud and there are no doubt thousands of cases under investigation. The cases range from individual business owners who have allegedly inflated their payroll expenses to obtain larger loans, to serial fraudsters who used dormant corporations and shell companies with no actual operations to apply for numerous loans falsely and even organized criminal networks submitting identical loan applications and supporting documents under the names of different companies.
Most of the people charged have misappropriated loan proceeds for prohibited purposes. Such as purchasing houses, cars, jewelry, and luxury items. U.S. v. Dinesh Sah and U.S. v. Richard Ayvazyan, et al. are both examples of these types of cases.
Unemployment Insurance Fraud
More than $860 billion in federal funds has gone into Unemployment Insurance benefits due to COVID-19. Investigations have shown that international organized criminal groups have targeted these funds. By using stolen identities to file for UI benefits illegally.
Domestic fraud has also occurred. For examples, identity thieves and even prison inmates have committed UI fraud. The National Unemployment Insurance Fraud Task Force was created in response to these activities.
The U.S. Attorney’s office is also focusing on UI fraud prosecutions, like U.S. v. Leelynn Danielle Chytka. In this case, the defendant plead guilty to participating in a scheme that successfully stole more than $499,000 in UI benefits.
Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) Fraud
EIDL program was designed to provide small businesses, non-profit and agricultural entities with loans. However, fraudsters have applied for EIDL advancements and loans on behalf of ineligible or non-existent businesses. The money was then diverted to illegal purposes. Over $580 million loan proceeds have been seized to date and investigators are working to identify wrongdoers and networks of fraudsters for prosecution.[Related: Top Criminal Defense Lawyer]
Defend Yourself Against Charges of Pandemic Fraud
People are also being prosecuted for the sale of counterfeit pharmaceuticals, medicines, and medical supplies like masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer. There are also schemes that involve the sale of fraudulent and mislabeled COVID-19 treatments and cures using false or unapproved claims.
Furthermore, there are investigations into fraud that involves the CARES Act Program.
Criminal Defense Lawyer for Pandemic Fraud in Virginia
The indictments and criminal charges mentioned above are merely allegations, but it shows that the Justice Department is working hard to identify, investigate, and prosecute these cases. If you have been accused of pandemic fraud, you need a criminal defense lawyer immediately. To speak to an experienced, knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer, please contact King, Campbell, Poretz & Mitchell.