Abused COVID relief funds totaling $286 million, intended for small companies but siphoned off by con-artists using stolen or made-up identities, have been recovered by the federal government, according to the Secret Service. Co-conspirators applied for Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) using false identities and opened thousands of accounts at Green Dot Bank, a Texas-based online banking service, in order to access the cash using debit cards, NBC News reports. When Green Dot recognized suspicious account activity, it alerted the Secret Service, and the EIDL funds were returned to the Small Business Administration.
Estimates of the overall amount of federal, state, and municipal COVID relief funds distributed fraudulently range from $100 billion to over $500 billion. According to experts, it will probably take years to fully account for the fraud. Assistant Special Agent in Charge Roy Doston, who is in charge of the Secret Service’s pandemic fraud investigations, said during the service’s announcement on Friday that eradicating the fraud in the pandemic relief system will be a “long process.”