PROVIDENCE – United States Attorney Aaron L. Weisman announced today that the U.S. Attorney’s Office has been allocated funding to hire an Assistant United States Attorney, for a one-year term, who will focus on prosecuting cases involving fraudulent schemes to unlawfully obtain unemployment insurance (UI) benefits and related offenses through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020.
The CARES Act allocated $270 billion for supplemental federal UI benefits. Additionally, President Trump directed that $44 billion in federal Disaster Relief Funds be used to provide supplemental UI benefits to eligible claimants. The substantial increase in funding for UI benefits, spurred a dramatic spike in UI fraud across the country, resulting in the theft of federal funds intended to help those struggling with unemployment during the current pandemic and economic crisis.
“CARES Act unemployment benefits are a lifeline for tens of thousands of hard-working Rhode Islanders sidelined because of the pandemic,” noted United States Attorney Aaron L. Weisman. “The federal government, with its many dedicated components, and with the invaluable assistance of our state and local law enforcement partners, is committed to and will spare no effort in ensuring that unemployment insurance funds not be fraudulently misdirected by scammers. The addition of a federal prosecutor to bolster our team of federal and state attorneys focused on CARES Act fraud is yet another indication of the Department of Justice’s commitment to holding accountable those who would use fraudulent means to obtain the unemployment insurance benefits intended for Rhode Islanders sidelined by the pandemic.”
In October, the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Rhode Island charged five individuals in a wide-ranging, ongoing joint federal and state investigation into a significant number of fraudulent unemployment insurance claims submitted to the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training ,and elsewhere, for benefits funded in part by the CARES Act.
In May, two businessmen were charged in the District of Rhode Island with allegedly filing bank loan applications fraudulently seeking more than a half-million dollars in forgivable loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration under CARES Act.
The U.S. Department of Justice, in close coordination with the U.S. Department of Labor and other federal agencies, created the U.S. Department of Justice National Unemployment Insurance Fraud Task Force. This task force is charged with investigating numerous CARES Act fraud schemes targeting the unemployment insurance programs of state workforce agencies and will work closely with United States Attorneys’ Offices to prosecute those individuals who have fraudulently diverted these funds from those struggling with unemployment.
The Department encourages the public to report suspected fraud schemes related to COVID-19 (the Coronavirus) to the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline by phone at (1-866-720-5721) or via an online reporting form available at www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/webform/ncdf-disaster- complaint-form.
The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice. Learn more about the history of our agency at www.Justice.gov/Celebrating150Years