Fraud Schemes Related to COVID-19
Fraud schemes related to COVID-19 (coronavirus) might trigger a prosecution by the U.S. Attorneys Office in the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division.
These cases involve allegations that a person or business took advantage of the current worldwide crisis to sell an illegal product with the claim that it protects individuals from the coronavirus or COVID-19.
Federal prosecutors are looking to take quick action through various COVID-19 Task Forces to put a stop to criminals preying on the public with Coronavirus-related fraud schemes.
Many of the allegations of fraud allege marketing illegal products that might increase the spread of COVID-19 and exacerbate the current public health emergency. The sale of these products might violate several federal laws.
Attorneys for COVID-19 Fraud in Florida
At Sammis Law Firm in Tampa, FL, our criminal defense attorneys pay attention to the efforts of federal prosecutors to prosecutor people for allegedly committing fraud schemes related to COVID-19 or coronavirus.
Federal prosecutors in the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division, are investigating people accused of selling illegal products claiming to protect against COVID-19 or the coronavirus. Many of these investigations involve attorneys with the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.
The charges might include illegally selling an unregistered product, illegally importing the unregistered product, or mailing a prohibited article. The prosecutions are often triggered by allegations that begin with a criminal complaint filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office or another federal agency.
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Investigations for COVID-19 Fraud in the U.S.
The investigations federal agencies in Florida who work to protect Americans from COVID-19 fraud including:
- federal prosecutors with Assistant U.S. Attorneys (AUSA) in the Complex Frauds Division;
- attorneys with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service who pursues individuals that are illegally utilizing the mail system to defraud victims during this coronavirus pandemic by using deceptive schemes;
- attorneys with the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)
- attorneys with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the EPA Criminal Investigation Division;
- attorneys with the Environmental Crimes Section of the Department of Justice (DOJ) Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division; or
- attorneys with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Administrators for the Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.
Middle District of Florida COVID-19 Fraud Task Force
The U.S. Attorneys Office recently announced that, in response to the increased threat of fraud presented by the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic, federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies have joined together to form the Middle District of Florida COVID-19 Fraud Task Force.
The mission of the task force in the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division, is to prosecute, investigate, and identify fraud related to the ongoing COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office will prioritize the investigation and prosecution of crimes related to the COVID-19 during this national crisis.
The Coronavirus Fraud Coordinator is Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Perry who works with law enforcement partners to increase efforts to protect the public from scammers and fraudsters attempting to prey upon the public’s fears during this national crisis related to COVID-19 and coronavirus.
The MDFL’s Coronavirus Fraud Coordinator, Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Perry is expected to file several cases within in the next few months.
Examples of Fraudulent Schemes Related to COVID-19
The most common types of fraudulent schemes related to COVID-19 (coronavirus) include:
- medical providers obtaining patient information for COVID-19 testing and then using that information to fraudulently bill for other tests and procedures;
- seeking donations fraudulently for illegitimate or non-existent charitable organizations;
- malicious websites and apps that appear to share Coronavirus-related information to gain and lock access to your devices until payment is received;
- phishing emails from entities posing as the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; or
- businesses or individuals selling fake cures for COVID-19 online and engaging in other forms of fraud.
The National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) receives and enters complaints into a centralized system that can be accessed by all U.S. Attorneys, as well as Justice Department litigating and law enforcement components to identify, investigate and prosecute fraud schemes.
From the NCDF database, complaints are coordinated among at least 16 additional federal law enforcement agencies, as well as state Attorneys General and local authorities.
Examples of COVID-19 Fraud in Florida
The most common incidents of COVID019 fraud include:
- threats to intentionally infect individuals with COVID-19 or coronavirus;
- hoarding or price-gouging of necessary supplies;
- assaults or robberies of patients departing medical facilities;
- threats to public officials advocating quarantines;
- fraudulent medical billing for procedures related to COVID-19;
- websites claiming to provide stimulus funds when consumers input their bank information;
- robocalls offering medical supplies with no intent to deliver;
- phishing emails from entities posing as the CDC or WHO, which may contain malware;
- websites seeking donations for illegitimate or nonexistent COVID-19 charities;
- individuals or businesses selling fake testing kits, treatments, or cures for COVID-19.
National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) – In Tampa, FL, law enforcement, public safety and health personnel, and first responders are encouraged to report related suspicious or suspected illegal activity to the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline (1-866-720-5721) or to the NCDF e-mail address email@example.com.
Report COVID-19 Fraud – Visit the website of the Department of Justice to find out how the public is being urged to report suspected fraud schemes related to COVID-19 (the Coronavirus) by calling the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline (1-866-720-5721) or by e-mailing the NCDF at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reporting COVID-19 Fraud – The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida has issued several press releases that urge the public to report incidents of coronavirus fraud.
This article was last updated on Monday, April 27, 2020.