GOP Seeks Accountability for 'Billions' in COVID Relief Aid Diverted to 'International' Criminals

GOP Seeks Accountability for 'Billions' in COVID Relief Aid Diverted to 'International' Criminals

Rep. Brad Wenstrup, the chair of the House Oversight Subcommittee, has written a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland seeking comprehensive information on the extent of COVID-19 relief funds that were allegedly stolen by “international actors or organizations.”

The subcommittee is requesting details about the amount of funds involved, the countries implicated, and the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) investigative efforts in these cases.

The subcommittee, under Wenstrup’s leadership, is also seeking an analysis of the impact of these fraudulent activities on American citizens. They are interested in any communications from the DOJ related to their strategies for combating this kind of fraud.

Wenstrup expressed concern over the significant expansion of government spending due to the $4.6 trillion allocated for the U.S. COVID-19 response. He highlighted the reported waste, fraud, and abuse within these programs, with an estimated $280 billion stolen by criminals, both domestic and international.

Some of the stolen funds are suspected to have been taken by foreign actors engaged in identity theft. Wenstrup’s report suggests that a significant portion of the stolen relief funds might have gone to criminal groups in countries such as Russia, China, and Nigeria.

While the DOJ has taken legal actions against cases involving over $8 billion in pandemic relief fraud, it remains unclear if these efforts have targeted solely domestic cases. The subcommittee is particularly concerned that billions of taxpayer dollars intended to alleviate the effects of the pandemic have been siphoned off by organized criminal networks in foreign nations.

Apart from the specific information requested, the subcommittee aims to receive a staff-level briefing on the DOJ’s civil and criminal actions against fraud, waste, and abuse of pandemic relief funds by international actors and criminal organizations.

A spokesperson from the subcommittee’s Democratic minority supported the prosecution of COVID-19 fraud and defended the Biden administration’s handling of the pandemic.

They emphasized the importance of holding international criminal organizations accountable for exploiting pandemic relief funds.

The DOJ recently announced charges against 371 individuals accused of COVID-19 fraud, totaling more than $830 million.


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