On August 23, 2023, the DOJ announced the results of its nationwide enforcement action against a multitude of alleged COVID-19 fraud schemes. In total, DOJ announced that it had brought a total of 718 civil and criminal enforcement actions related to an alleged $836 million in COVID-19 fraud, including bringing criminal charges against 371 defendants. Emphasizing the national nature of this coordinated effort, Michael C. Galdo, Acting Director of COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement, noted that more than 50 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices were involved in actions taken between May and July 2023. DOJ also announced that it had formed two new COVID-19 strike forces in the District of Colorado and the District of New Jersey, which has a strong history of health care fraud enforcement under its pre-existing health care strike force.
While DOJ brought civil and criminal enforcement actions against alleged fraud schemes covering the width and breadth of COVID-19 relief programs, there appear to be several consistent themes: (1) a continued crack-down on Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan fraud; (2) COVID-19-related “healthcare billing fraud,” especially related to alleged abuse of the HRSA uninsured program; and (3) Employee Retention Credit fraud, which appears to be a new area of focus. All told, this coordinated enforcement effort demonstrates DOJ’s commitment (from both its civil and criminal components) to aggressively investigate and pursue a broad a range of potential malfeasance associated with the unprecedented federal COVID-19 relief efforts.