As the pandemic slowly recedes, leaving a host of hastily-enacted funding and programs in its wake, the government’s recovery and clean-up efforts are well underway. In April and May 2021, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a wide range of arrests, indictments, sentencings, and forfeitures involving pandemic relief fraudsters. A survey of these cases indicates that the government’s enforcement efforts are not only extensive, involving multiple law enforcement agencies and task forces, but are also relying on multiple fraud statutes, including identity theft and money laundering, as well as significant forfeitures.

In March 2020, the CARES Act provided emergency financial assistance to Americans suffering the economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, including in the form of forgivable loans to small businesses for job retention and other specified expenses through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The PPP allowed qualifying small businesses and other organizations to receive unsecured loans at an interest rate of 1%, but required that the proceeds be used for payroll costs, mortgage interest, rent, and utilities. The interest and principal could be forgiven as long as the proceeds were spent within a certain time period and were used, at least in part, for payroll expenses. Inevitably, the prospect of free money, the vague requirements for loan eligibility, changing directives from the government, and the need to get the money to the recipients as…

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