Secret Service keeps a close eye as President Joe Biden participates in a campaign event with Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe in Arlington, Va., in July 2021. FIle Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo
Aug. 26 (UPI) -- The U.S. Secret Service announced Friday that it has seized more than $1.4 billion in fraudulently obtained COVID-19 relief funds since 2020 after its latest haul of $286 million.
A probe initiated by the Secret Service field office in Orlando, Fla., revealed that alleged conspirators used fake and stolen identification and employment records to obtain economic injury disaster loans, the federal law enforcement agency said in a statement.
The conspirators allegedly used Green Dot Bank, an online bank based in Utah, to set up more than 15,000 accounts and debit cards to "conceal and move their criminal proceeds.
"Secret Service investigators worked with the bank to identify the fraudulent accounts and seize more than $286 million that has been returned to the Small Business Administration.
"This is an important step in returning stolen funds to the American people," said Kevin Chambers, the director for COVID-19 fraud enforcement at the Justice Department.
"This forfeiture effort and those to come are a direct and necessary response to the unprecedented size and scope of pandemic relief fraud."
The Secret Service has initiated more than 3,850 pandemic-related fraud investigations and investigative inquiries since 2020.
"The Secret Service is dedicated to safeguarding the integrity of the nation's financial systems against fraud and holding those responsible to account for their criminal activity," said Assistant Director David Smith.
"By aiding in the return of nearly $2.3 billion in stolen funds over the last 30 months, our workforce has demonstrated a clear and firm commitment to the vitality of American businesses across the country."