Aug 26, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Secret Service recovers $286 million of stolen COVID relief from scammers

A Secret Service agent is seen on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House.
A Secret Service agent at the White House. Photo: Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The U.S. Secret Service has returned $286 million in stolen COVID-19 relief funds to the Small Business Administration, the agency said Friday.

Driving the news: The funds, originally a form of aid to businesses struggling during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, were obtained by scammers using fake identities and dummy accounts, the agency said.

Details: The conspirators used fake IDs to apply for the COVID-19 relief funds and created more than 15,000 accounts using Green Dot Bank "to conceal and move their criminal proceeds" with debit cards, the Secret Service said.

  • Green Dot told the Secret Service about the accounts after the bank discovered the suspicious activity, per NBC News.
  • The law enforcement agency said domestic and international fraudsters were potentially involved in the scam.

By the numbers: The Secret Service has opened at least 3,850 investigations into pandemic-related fraud inquiries. The agency said it has seized at least $1.4 billion that fraudsters obtained since 2020.

What they're saying: “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 in a statement.

  • The Secret Service did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.
Go deeper