As with most situations, the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic has created new areas in which criminal conduct can occur. During the height of the pandemic, with most states under lockdown orders, State court violations include new arrests for domestic violence, social distancing violations, and biological agent hoaxes.
The federal government is also seeing new offenses, with the Department of Justice highlighting several areas they plan on targeting, including:
- Individuals and businesses selling fake cures for Covid-19 online and engaging in other forms of fraud.
- Phishing emails from entities posing as the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Malicious websites and apps that appear to share virus-related information to gain and lock access to your devices until payment is received.
- Seeking donations fraudulently for illegitimate or non-existent charitable organizations.
- Price gouging by charging excessing amounts for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and cleaning products.
- Hoax Covid-19 threats where individuals are claiming to have the virus and spit or threaten to deliver the virus to others.
Fraud and the Coronavirus Relief Bill
While the federal government is actively investigating the aforementioned crimes, other types of white-collar crimes are also on their radar. Specifically, crimes related to the distribution of coronavirus relief funds are expected to occur as the government rolls out the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Most assuredly, federal investigations will develop into a full autopsy of how funds from these acts are distributed.
Signed into law on March 26, 2020, the CARES Act contains $376 billion in relief for American workers and small businesses. The four central focuses of CARES Act assistance will undoubtedly be subject to scrutiny and federal investigations, where individuals are accused of taking advantage of the Paycheck Protection Program, the EIDL Loan Advance, SBA Express Bridge Loans, or SBA Debt Relief.
Based on our experience, the government will begin to investigate a variety of criminal offenses related to the distribution of these funds, including conspiracy, cyber-crime, false statements, wire fraud, and bank fraud. In a similar situation but on a much smaller scale, investigations of how funds were distributed under the 2008 Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) lasted more than 10 years and resulted in 24 enforcement actions against banks and other organizations and 291 individual convictions.
If You Need Help, Call an Experienced Federal Defense Attorney
If you are being investigated for COVID-19 related crimes, hiring the right lawyer is critical. Attorney David Haas has years of experience as a federal prosecutor that he leverages to successfully protect and defend his clients. It’s important to contact Haas Law as soon as you think you are even being suspected of improper conduct.
If you or someone you know is currently involved in an investigation or prosecution, or has been charged with Coronavirus-related crimes or Coronavirus fraud, call us at 407-755-7675 and let us help you navigate successfully through these complex cases.