The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has continued to investigate and prosecute alleged COVID-19 related fraud over the past two years since the pandemic began. On Thursday, DOJ announced the appointment of a Director for COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement, who will lead DOJ’s enforcement efforts in this area. Associate Deputy Attorney General Kevin Chambers will fill this position.
The COVID-19 pandemic created new opportunities for potential fraudsters, ranging from fake cures for the disease to fraudulent use of funds from the Paycheck Protection Program, Provider Relief Fund, and other relief programs. As we reported in our Health Care Enforcement 2021 Year-in-Review and 2022 Outlook, combatting COVID-19 related fraud was a top priority for DOJ in 2020 and 2021. Last May, DOJ created the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force, which is composed of various entities within DOJ, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and other interagency partners. The Task Force executed a takedown of COVID-19 related fraud schemes, which amounted to losses of over $143 million.
As evidenced by the appointment of the Director, DOJ is poised to continue to dedicate significant resources to COVID-19 related fraud. We expect DOJ to remain focused on this area due to the billions of dollars spent by the federal government on relief programs, as well as the potential for patient harm caused by fake or fraudulent medical items and services related to diagnosing, treating, or preventing the disease. The press release states that the Director will create Strike Teams for the “next phase” in the fight against COVID-19 related fraud. We will continue to monitor enforcement efforts related to COVID-19 and other health care fraud.