On April 20, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced criminal charges against 21 people across the country for COVID-19-related frauds. The defendants are accused of over $149 million in false billings to federal programs and thefts from federally funded pandemic assistance programs.

Some of the defendants, in California, New York and Maryland, allegedly obtained patients’ information from performing COVID-19 testing and then filed false Medicare claims for unnecessary medical procedures and office visits that never occurred. In Florida, one defendant billed Medicare for sham telemedicine consulting fees, and another paid kickbacks to marketing companies for patient information in order to be able to submit bogus orders to Medicare for medical equipment.

The cases announced also included allegedly defrauding the provider relief fund under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and distributing counterfeit COVID-19 vaccination cards. One manufacturer of fake vaccine cards told an undercover agent, “Until I get caught and go to jail, [expletive] it I’m taking the money, ha! I don’t care.”

In addition to the DOJ, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Center for Program Integrity, Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General, FBI, FDA, U.S. Postal Service, and many other federal and state law enforcement agencies participated in the coordinated actions. The DOJ is continuing to target this area through its COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force and National Center for Disaster Fraud, which accepts complaints from the public online or on a telephone hotline ((866) 720-5721).

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