Unfortunately, the worst of times can bring out the worst in people. For more than a year, COVID-19 has been front-and-center in the consciousness of the public – including scammers who would take advantage of government programs and people’s fears.
Fortunately, the Department of Justice is cracking down on fraud. Unfortunately, they may mistakenly target a legitimate business like your own. Our healthcare fraud lawyers reveal everything you need to know.
A pandemic of fraud
The Justice Department (DOJ) recently announced it has charged 474 people over the past year with fraud or other criminal schemes connected to the pandemic. The defendants are accused of fraud attempts totaling at least $569 million.
Among the major areas of the alleged frauds are:
- The Paycheck Protection Program, which offers loans to businesses to keep employees on the payroll. In many cases, business owners allegedly inflated payroll expenses to qualify for more aid. In one case, a Texas man admitted filing 15 applications for fake businesses in an effort to secure $24.8 million in loans. Officials say alleged fraudsters spent the government money on houses, cars, jewelry, and other luxury items.
- Economic Injury Disaster Loans, which are meant for struggling small-business owners with 10 or fewer employees. Applying was so easy – a 5-minute online application – that almost everyone who sought the $10,000 received the grants. Even professional thieves from Russia and Nigeria cashed in.
- Unemployment Insurance (weekly federal unemployment benefits worth $600 a week). The size of the program skyrocketed as people lost their jobs because of the pandemic. In some cases, officials say, organized international criminal groups, using stolen identities, applied for aid.
Fraud hits home for many
The DOJ, naturally, is touting its “multifaceted and multi-district approach to enforcement during this national health emergency” and promises “additional criminal and civil enforcement actions in the coming months.”
In its exuberance to prove its worth and to publicize its crackdown, the DOJ is likely to make some mistakes and snare a few innocents.
Your business could be caught up in this pandemic fraud hysteria. You may be an innocent victim yourself, unwittingly associating yourself with a scammer. Or maybe a fraudster is impersonating your company to steal from the government.
It’s also possible one of your employees has used your business as a cover to personally profit from one of the pandemic relief programs.
Your business is only as good as your reputation. Any association with criminal activity is going to have a negative impact on both you and your business.
Fighting fraud accusations
Counteracting charges of fraud is difficult. You can scream “innocent” at the top of your lungs, but is anyone really going to believe you? Besides the nature of people believing the worst about someone, the DOJ might as well be hanging a sign outside your business that reads “Pandemic Scammer.”
Even if you are innocent, prosecutors will treat you like a criminal and the public will view your business much differently. If you are lucky, the DOJ will offer you a plea deal. It may seem like the only way out, but it will leave a permanent stain on you and your business.
Fortunately, the healthcare fraud attorneys at Brewer, Pritchard & Buckley, P.C. know exactly what you are going through. Our firm’s attorneys have 90 years of experience successfully handling situations just like yours.
We have the expertise to effectively deal with allegations from the DOJ or anyone else and will work aggressively to rescue your hard-earned reputation as an honest business owner. Contact us today to schedule a case consultation. Our office is located in Houston, TX and we serve clients nationwide.