GOP Presses DOJ On Lost Pandemic Billions

The COVID-19 subcommittee of the House Oversight Committee is demanding information regarding what the Department of Justice is planning to do about all the COVID-19 relief funding that was stolen by “international” criminals.

It’s been reported that there was billions of dollars in that funding that was stolen.

Ohio Republican Representative Brad Wenstrup, the chair of the subcommittee, recently wrote Merrick Garland, the U.S. attorney general, asking that he give the subcommittee a full accounting of how much in the relief money was stolen “by international actors or organizations.”

Wenstrup wants to know what countries the criminals are from, as well as how many individual instances the DOJ is investigating.

The committee also wants a full analysis of how many U.S. residents were impacted by all this fraud, as well as any communications from the DOJ that are related to the efforts officials are taking to stop it all.

As Wenstrup wrote:

“This massive growth in government spending caused inflation and expanded the government to unprecedented levels.”

Since just the beginning of 2023, the U.S. has spent $4.6 trillion on its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wenstrup’s letter continued:

“Worse still, these costly COVID-19-era programs were rife with waste, fraud and abuse. Criminals inside and outside the United States stole approximately $280 billion in taxpayer funds intended for struggling families, businesses, hospitals and others.”

Wenstrup cited another report that said that some of the funds that were stolen were taken by people in foreign countries who were stealing people’s identities. He wrote:

“Some of these fraudulent actors were based outside the United States and may involve international criminal organizations. Estimates imply that at least half of all stolen COVID-19 relief funds went to Russian, Chinese and Nigerian criminals.

“As of March 2022, the Department stated that it had taken criminal and civil enforcement actions in matters alleging over $8 billion in pandemic relief fraud, but it is unclear if this is limited to domestic fraud. It is highly concerning that possibly billions of taxpayer dollars intended to help Americans suffering the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic were stolen by organized criminal rings in foreign countries.”

The subcommittee also wants a full briefing about the DOJ’s criminal and civil actions that it’s taken thus far “in response to reports of fraud, waste and abuse of coronavirus pandemic relief funds by overseas or international actors and criminal organizations.”

Democrats on the subcommittee are on board with the notion that all people who are found to have committed COVID-19 relief fraud should be fully prosecuted. However, a spokesperson for the Democratic minority on the subcommittee defended how the Biden administration has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the spokesperson said recently:

“Under the Biden administration, the Department of Justice has investigated and prosecuted fraudsters, already seizing more than $1.4 billion in stolen relief funds across the country. As Republicans threaten to defund our nation’s law enforcement to shield former President Trump from justice, Select Subcommittee Democrats stand ready to support and invest in the Department’s ongoing work to hold domestic and international bad actors accountable and prevent fraud in the event of future crises.”