Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced on Tuesday that Homeland Security Investigation Officers (HSI) had seized more than 900 consignments of counterfeit or substandard medical equipment and supplies – including test kits and treatments suspected for COVID-19.
The agency made the announcement to mark 100 days since the launch in April of Operation Stolen Promise, intended to “protect the homeland from the growing and evolving threat posed by fraud and criminal activity linked to COVID-19. “.
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In addition to seizing hundreds of shipments, HSI said its agents opened 570 criminal investigations and made 53 arrests. Officers also seized more than $ 7 million in “illicit proceeds,” including $ 2.2 million obtained through fraud related to the CARES Act.
“While there is no approved treatment for COVID-19, that does not prevent fraudsters from illegally trying to sell these counterfeit or banned products and other medical supplies and test kits to US consumers,” he said. HSI Acting Deputy Executive Director Alyssa Erichs said in a statement.
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Among those arrested was a Washington state doctor who officials said “fraudulently sought over $ 3 million in Paycheck Protection Program (P3) loans.” A Georgian woman was also arrested after trying to import and sell unregistered pesticides which she said would protect people from COVID-19.
“We are seeing an increase in CARES law fraud which has doubled since June,” Erichs said. “We encourage everyone to be extra careful, especially when logging in online, and be aware of red flags, to avoid falling victim to fraud.