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ICE launches operation targeting COVID-19 fraud

Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations has launched Operation Stolen Promise in anticipation that criminal enterprises will increase efforts to financially benefit from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Photo courtesy of Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations has launched Operation Stolen Promise in anticipation that criminal enterprises will increase efforts to financially benefit from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Photo courtesy of Immigration and Customs Enforcement

April 15 (UPI) -- U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced on Wednesday the launch of a new operation to crack down on rising fraud and crime exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dubbed Operation Stolen Promise, the nationwide anti-fraud initiative run by ICE's Homeland Security Investigations aims to target criminal organizations that are expected to ramp up attempts in the coming weeks to exploit the ongoing health crisis through financial fraud scams involving financial relief, COVID-19 stimulus checks and traditional boiler room operations, the federal agency said in a statement.

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"HSI will bring every asset to bear against anyone targeting consumers with financial schemes or fraudulent products that jeopardize the health and safety of Americans," said HSI Acting Executive Associate Director Alysa D. Erichs in a statement. "This unified effort brings a whole-of-government approach to monitor, investigate and arrest those responsible for endangering the public with criminal acts of fraud related the COVID-19 pandemic."

As of Tuesday, HSI investigators have launched 130 COVID-19-related investigations, issued seven warrants, conducted nine arrests and performed 225 coronavirus-linked seizures of test kits, removed more than 11,000 COVID-19-related websites and prohibited pharmaceuticals and counterfeit masks, among other items, officials said.

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"Operation Stolen Promise will combine HSI's expertise in global trade investigations, financial fraud and cyber investigations with robust private and public partnerships to disrupt and dismantle this criminal activity and strengthen global supply-chain security," ICE said.

The National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, HSI International Operations, the Illicit Finance and Proceeds of Crime Unit and the Cyber Crimes Center will all be supporting the operation, HSI said.

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