SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – The United States Secret Service’s resident office in Savannah is investigating hundreds of unemployment income benefit fraud cases. The agent in charge says it’s indicative of a bigger national problem.
According to the agency’s latest statistics, unemployment fraud is contributing to tens of billions of dollars in losses since the start of the pandemic. In California alone, there have been $11 billion in losses.
“In the Savannah area, there are hundreds of unemployment income fraud cases where people actually applied for and received benefits from other states,” explained Savannah Resident Agent in Charge Glen Kessler. “For example, Arizona, California, Washington State, claiming that they actually worked jobs in those states, when in actuality they never left the state.”
Another type of fraud related to the pandemic involves small business administration loans.
“Individuals in the Savannah area have claimed that they own businesses, but in actuality, what we’re finding out during the criminal investigation is that they had no business set up last year,” said Kessler.
The third type of fraud involves people who accept money for products that do not exist. Most recently, the Secret Service says it stopped a Georgia doctor from taking $317 million from a foreign country.
In a contract, he served as a mediator to promise 50 million N-95 masks to a foreign country. Leaders wanted them for the country’s police departments. Investigators say the masks did not exist.
The doctor, Paul Penn of Johns Creek, has been sentenced to 29 days of home confinement and a $1,500 fine.
“The message to anyone who thinks there’s an easy way to profit and make money off of this pandemic, I would ask them to think twice,” warned Kessler, “because at some point, this is going to catch up to you.”
The Secret Service is asking residents to be aware of the following:
- COVID-19 vaccine fraud schemes
- An increase in cryptocurrency fraud schemes including blackmail attempts, work from home scams and more
- Unsolicited telephone calls and emails from individuals claiming to be IRS and Treasury employees
- Unsolicited requests for your Medicare information, even if they are accompanied by offers