PROVIDENCE – United States Attorney Aaron L. Weisman says his office has received funding to hire an Assistant United States Attorney prosecuting unemployment insurance fraud and related offenses through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
The CARES Act allocated $270 billion for supplemental federal unemployment benefits. President Trump also 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, according to Weisman’s office.
“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 the 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.
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