United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling announced last week that the District of Massachusetts has been allocated funding to hire an Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) to focus on prosecuting cases involving fraudulent schemes to unlawfully obtain unemployment insurance (UI) benefits and related offenses through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020.
The CARES Act allocated $270 billion for supplemental federal UI benefits. Additionally, President Donald J. Trump directed that $44 billion in federal Disaster Relief Funds be used to provide supplemental UI benefits to eligible claimants. The substantial increase in funding for UI benefits spurred a dramatic spike in UI fraud across the country, resulting in the theft of federal funds intended to help those struggling with unemployment during the current pandemic and economic crisis.
As part of its ongoing effort to investigate and prosecute fraud stemming from the Coronavirus pandemic, the District of Massachusetts will hire an AUSA for a one-year term, with the possibility of a one-year extension.
“Unfortunately, there are those who take advantage of national crises to enrich themselves at the expense of American taxpayers,” said U.S. Attorney Lelling. “From the onset of the pandemic, my office has aggressively investigated and prosecuted scams and fraud related to this national crisis, including efforts to steal funds intended for the millions of Americans who suddenly find themselves out of work and without an income. I look forward to doubling down on our prosecutions of unemployment insurance fraud with the welcomed addition of a prosecutor focused solely on these cases.”
The U.S. Department of Justice, in close coordination with the U.S. Department of Labor and other federal agencies, created the U.S. Department of Justice National Unemployment Insurance Fraud Task Force. This task force is charged with investigating numerous CARES Act fraud schemes targeting the unemployment insurance programs of state workforce agencies and will work closely with United States Attorneys’ Offices to prosecute those individuals who have fraudulently diverted these funds from those struggling with unemployment.
The Department encourages the public to report suspected fraud schemes related to COVID-19 to the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline by phone at (1-866-720-5721) or via an online reporting form available at www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/webform/ncdf-disaster-complaint- form.