Up to $400 billion in COVID unemployment relief was stolen – and more than half that cash was funneled to criminals in Russia, China and Nigeria, it was claimed.
The United States lost as much as 50% of all unemployment relief, as much as $400 billion, through fraudulent claims, Blake Hall told Axios. Hall is the CEO of ID.me CEO, a company that provides fraud prevention services.
Some experts are considering the theft a matter of national security with cash ending up in the hands of criminal groups based in Russia, China and Nigeria.
More than 70% of the $400 billion feared to have been stolen was pilfered by state-backed foreign criminal groups, Haywood Talcove told Axios.
‘These groups are definitely backed by the state,' said Talcove, the CEO of LexisNexis Risk Solutions.
U.S. street gangs reportedly stole much of the rest of the money.
White House economist Gene Sperling noted to Axios that much of the fraud happened during the administration of former President Donald Trump.
‘Widespread fraud at the state level in pandemic unemployment insurance during the previous Administration is one of the most serious challenges we inherited,' Sperling told Axios.
‘President Biden has been clear that this type of activity from criminal syndicates is despicable and unacceptable. It is why we passed $2 billion for UI modernizations in the American Rescue Plan, instituted a Department of Justice Anti-Fraud Task Force and an all-of-government Identity Theft and Public Benefits Initiative.'
Experts and politicians had assumed that some money would be stolen through fraud as unemployment systems in states across the country were not prepared to handle the demands of the pandemic.