More money, more problems! The Secret Service has confiscated a whopping $2 billion in stolen COVID-19 unemployment relief funds agency officials said Thursday. The agency says the money has been returned to states.
CNBC reported “Programs in at least 30 states received the money after the agency determined several recipients had fraudulently applied for pandemic-related unemployment.”
Secret Service assistant special agent in charge, Roy Dotson, told CNBC “this is typical of the cyber fraud we deal with annually. It’s just compounded based on additional funds from Covid relief…the criminals did take full advantage of the programs to try to steal from them.”
Dotson added pandemic-related fraud will continue to be an ongoing investigation, and that the $2 billion in returned money to the states was a “conservative estimate.” The fast rollout of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, attempting to get relief funds in the pockets of recipients quickly made it easy prey for “fraudsters.”
A number of only $2 billion returned does look quite small when the Labor Department’s Office of Inspector General released a report in March saying at least $89 billion of the estimated $896 billion in unemployment programs funds “could be paid improperly, with a significant portion attributable to fraud.”
According to Dotson, fraudulent actions typically involved stealing identities of people who qualified for unemployment benefits. There were also identities stolen from people who had not filed for unemployment.
The Secret service also announced it has seized over $640 million in funds defrauded primarily from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. “It opened some 690 unemployment insurance investigations and 720 investigations related to those two programs” reports CNBC.
Americans Social Media Posts Are Being Tracked By The US Postal Service In A 'Covert Operations Program'
Your private data and social media posts are secretly being collected by the United States Postal Service.
Yahoo News obtained a document showing that the law enforcement arm of the U.S. Postal Service has been covertly using a program that tracks and collects Americans’ social media posts, including those about planned events and protests.
According to a March 16 government bulletin obtained by the outlet, the USPS’ law enforcement arm is tracking citizens’ social media activity to gather data on a host of topics, including “inflammatory” postings and planned protests, that it shares across multiple federal agencies as part of an effort called the Internet Covert Operations Program, or iCOP.
Yahoo News said the document, which was marked “law enforcement sensitive,” specifically mentioned an examination of alleged planned activity for March 20 and was distributed through Homeland Security’s fusion centers.
“Analysts with the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) Internet Covert Operations Program (iCOP) monitored significant activity regarding planned protests occurring internationally and domestically on March 20, 2021,” the bulletin said. “Locations and times have been identified for these protests, which are being distributed online across multiple social media platforms, to include right-wing leaning Parler and Telegram accounts.”
The alleged threats were found not to be legitimate as iCOP’s intelligence admitted in a report:
A number of groups were expected to gather in cities around the globe on March 20 as part of a World Wide Rally for Freedom and Democracy, to protest everything from lockdown measures to 5G. “Parler users have commented about their intent to use the rallies to engage in violence. Image 3 on the right is a screenshot from Parler indicating two users discussing the event as an opportunity to engage in a ‘fight’ and to ‘do serious damage,'” says the bulletin.
“No intelligence is available to suggest the legitimacy of these threats,” it adds.
The bulletin includes screenshots of posts about the protests from Facebook, Parler, Telegram and other social media sites. Individuals mentioned by name include one alleged Proud Boy and several others whose identifying details were included but whose posts did not appear to contain anything threatening.
“iCOP analysts are currently monitoring these social media channels for any potential threats stemming from the scheduled protests and will disseminate intelligence updates as needed,” the bulletin says.
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Biden HHS Pick Oversaw Disastrous COVID Nursing Home Policy in Pennsylvania
Republicans in the state, including State Sen. Mastriano, had called for Levine’s resignation
Joe Biden’s pick for assistant Human Health Services (HHS) secretary was responsible for the deadly COVID nursing home policy in Pennsylvania.
Last March, Dr. Rachel Levine, the transgender health secretary of Pennsylvania, directed long-term care facilities to admit new patients who were discharged from hospitals who may have had COVID-19. This was ordered to “to alleviate the increasing burden in the acute care settings.”
As COVID outbreaks ravaged the elderly population in the state, Levine’s own 95-year-old mother had the luxury of being removed from her nursing home and into a “premium hotel.”
“My mother requested and my sister and I as her children comply to move her to another location,” Levine said in a press conference in May. “During the COVID-19 outbreak. My mother is 95 years old. She is very intelligent and more than competent to make her own decisions.”
According to data from the New York Times updated earlier this month, Pennsylvania now ranks second for COVID deaths (9,365) from long-term care facilities in the country, placing the state only behind California, which had 10,134 fatalities. Overall, deaths in Pennsylvania’s long-term care facilities make up 52 percent of all COVID deaths in the state.
Republicans in the state, including State Sen. Doug Mastriano, had called for Levine’s resignation.
“These failings are compounded by being complicit in the virus spreading through our elder care homes, triggered by unscientific and illogical directives, forcing them to readmit COVID-19 patients,” he said. “Let me state this clearly, this order by Secretary Levine is responsible for the deaths of approximately 2,500 of our citizens and displays the gross incompetence of someone unfit for office. The bottom line is Secretary Levine has failed to protect our most vulnerable population.”
In June, Levine defended the nursing home policies put in place and said, “They contracted the virus in the facility. So it doesn’t mean they were bringing it to the facility. The virus was already there.”
Biden released a statement on his nomination of Levine today:
“Dr. Rachel Levine will bring the steady leadership and essential expertise we need to get people through this pandemic — no matter their zip code, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability — and meet the public health needs of our country in this critical moment and beyond. She is a historic and deeply qualified choice to help lead our administration’s health efforts.”
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf congratulated Levine today, writing on Twitter, “Dr. Levine has been a wise, calm, and dedicated partner during this pandemic and I couldn’t be prouder of the tireless work she’s done to serve Pennsylvanians. She will be missed, but I know she will be a tremendous leader at @HHSGov.”
Dr. Levine has been a wise, calm, and dedicated partner during this pandemic and I couldn’t be prouder of the tireless work she’s done to serve Pennsylvanians.
— Governor Tom Wolf (@GovernorTomWolf) January 19, 2021