(This post was written by whistleblower senior investigator David Reign.)
We have witnessed COVID-19 progress from an epidemic to a pandemic in a matter of months around the world. In America, life has changed drastically with the closure of schools, restaurants, sporting events, and even here in Florida, our beautiful beaches. Many small and even large businesses are laying off workers, many of whom have little in savings or an adequate safety net. The States of California and New York have ordered its more than 40 million citizens to “shelter in place.” As of now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported more than 4,500 Americans have died from the disease. In Italy, the death toll has reached more than 13,000, and globally, more than 45,000 people have died. As these numbers change daily, see the World Health Organization for up-to-date figures. All of us need to be prepared to deal with this new reality for the foreseeable future.
Unprecedented Measures for Unprecedented Times
In an unprecedented matter, rivaling actions by our government only in war time, federal and state governments across the country have stepped up their relief effort to citizens and key industries across the country that will be most impacted. The president signed a $2 trillion economic stimulus package that aims to aid citizens and businesses. It is yet unclear what oversight and accountability will attach to these funds, but early reports suggest President Trump wants no transparency on the spending for at least a year. For many reasons, this is a horrible idea.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have relaxed rules for medical providers, allowed prescriptions to be extended without a prescription for 30 days, and approved the extended use of telemedicine to better serve patients who need to speak with a doctor or other medical provider. While the intention of CMS is good, the impact of such sweeping changes will create an opportunity for scoundrels to abuse this time.
Small businesses can apply for low or no interest loans through the Small Business Administration. Time has proven that rapid expansion of such programs opens the floodgates to opportunists who willingly take advantage of the crisis.
Be Aware Of These Coronavirus-related Fraud Scheme
The unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the daily life of nearly every American. Federal and state governments have taken a broad spectrum of actions to stifle growth of the virus and prevent any further downturn in the economy. Most Americans will unite and work hand-in-hand to get through these difficult times. However, unscrupulous individuals will use the unprecedented and unpredictable nature of these times to take advantage of taxpayers in the form of fraud. Although COVID-19 is new, and the expansive funding is necessary, the fraudsters will use their same old tricks to deplete vital resources and funding. In an effort to counter fraud, United States Attorney General William P. Barr directed all U.S. attorneys to prioritize the investigation and prosecution of coronavirus-related fraud schemes. As outlined by the Department Of Justice, some examples of these schemes include:
- 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 coronavirus-related information to gain and lock access to your devices until payment is received.
- Seeking donations for illegitimate or non-existent charitable organizations.
- Medical providers obtaining patient information for COVID-19 testing and then using that information to fraudulently bill for other tests and procedures.
Our Experienced Attorneys Seek Justice
If you are aware of individuals or companies committing coronavirus-related fraud against the government contact our team of experienced attorneys for a consultation. Our firm’s experience, knowledge, technology and infrastructure allow us to maintain vigilance and continue to seek justice while adhering to the constraints imposed due to COVID-19.
DOJ Press Release: https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/attorney-general-william-p-barr-urges-american-public-report-covid-19-fraud