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Thursday, December 8, 2022

US Charges Dozens with $25m COVID Relief Fraud

They allegedly spent the entire monetary fund on properties, high-end cars and luxury goods

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UNITED STATES: US prosecutors have incriminated and charged 47 people in one of the largest Covid relief fund schemes alleged to date.

The suspects have been accused of stealing nearly $250m (£220m) from a government aid programme that was supposed to provide food to children during the pandemic.

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They allegedly spent the entire monetary fund on properties, high-end cars and luxury goods.

Reports suggest this fraudulent scheme is perpetuated by a Minnesota non-profit organization, Feeding Our Future. Founder Aimee Bock denies all charges of fraud or money laundering.

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A lawyer for Ms Bock spoke to the BBC: “We have maintained our innocence from the first day.”

He confirmed that the indictment was “merely the beginning of the criminal process” and represented a “mere allegation”.

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FBI Director Christopher Way described the revelation of this scheme as an “egregious plot”, one of the largest of its kind uncovered so far.

The suspects are alleged to have issued food bills for meals they did not serve to children who did not exist, said the Department of Justice (DoJ) in a statement.

Moreover, the suspects did so by exploiting a government initiative through which private restaurants could claim funding to distribute food under the sponsorship of non-profit organizations.

The defendants in the case are said to have bribed the employees at Feeding Our Future to sponsor and support numerous fake distribution sites.

These fraudulent websites claimed to be serving meals to thousands of children a day within just days or weeks of being formed, according to the DoJ.

But they were instead submitting false paperwork using bogus names of children taken at random from a website called www.listofrandomnames.com.

The case against the fraudsters involves heavy charges of wire fraud, money laundering and bribery.

US Attorney General Merrick Garland said that the DoJ would continue to crack down on those shady websites and organizations that “exploited the pandemic for personal gain”.

In March, the DoJ said it had brought forward over 1,000 criminal cases involving vast losses of $1.1bn – and was involved in civil litigation alleging fraud in more than $6bn of loans.

Also Read: US COVID-19 Pandemic Is Gone, Says Joe Biden

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