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Across the Country, U.S. Attorneys and States Attorneys General Join Forces in COVID-19 Enforcement Measures

On the heels of U.S. Attorney General William Barr’s order directing the Department of Justice to prioritize the investigation and prosecution of COVID-19 related fraud, U.S. Attorneys across the country are implementing COVID-19 Fraud Task Forces, which include partnerships with State Attorneys Generals to aggressively combat individuals taking advantage of the pandemic to commit cyber, financial, and health care fraud. The list of jurisdictions that have announced such enforcement measures continues to grow. Just this week, U.S. Attorneys in Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, and New Jersey announced joint task forces, adding to likes of Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.  Federal prosecutors in Florida and Washington D.C. have also announced the formation of their own COVID-19 Anti-Fraud Task Force.

As stories of coronavirus-related fraud continue to increase across the nation, we expect the joint task force list to grow.  Earlier this week, the Federal Trade Commission reported that it had received almost 12,000 consumer complaints related to COVID-19 in just three months—more than half of those complaints were fraud-related, with a total loss to consumers of $8.39 million.  State Attorneys General’s Offices have also reported spikes in COVID-19-related consumer fraud complaints.   

U.S. Attorneys are urging individuals to report these and other similar fraudulent schemes to the National Center for Disaster Fraud.  In fact, many of the joint task forces have already taken legal action against businesses offering fake coronavirus remedies.  

This heightened government enforcement will only increase as billions of dollars of relief funds are paid out as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”). Companies receiving funds under CARES should maintain efforts to comply with all relevant regulations, as use of these funds will likely bring civil and criminal government investigations. Corporate decisions and conduct related to relief funds will be subject to great scrutiny in the form of government oversight and investigative efforts to crack down on fraud and abuse. If there is any doubt, one need only look at the 2008 financial crisis, which resulted in the prosecution of 291 individuals and recovery of over $11 billion in funds distributed through the Troubled Asset Relief Program. The COVID-19 joint task forces’ message is clear: government enforcement remains open for business.

© Polsinelli PC, Polsinelli LLP in CaliforniaNational Law Review, Volume X, Number 100

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About this Author

Melissa S. Ho Shareholder Phoenix Antitrust, Antitrust - Health Care Compliance, Fraud and Abuse, Stark, Financial and Securities Litigation, Financial Technology, Regulation Government Investigations, Health Care Litigation
Shareholder

Melissa Ho is a trial attorney with a detailed understanding of government regulations and business litigation. A former prosecutor, she is sympathetic to the disruption and chaos a government inquiry and criminal investigation can cause. 

Melissa defends individual clients against a wide variety of criminal allegations, including health care fraud, qui tam, RICO violations, bank fraud, real estate fraud, mortgage fraud, foreign corrupt practices, securities fraud, water and air quality violations, government corruption, procurement and public fraud, professional misconduct, civil...

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Andrew T. Fox Phoenix Polsinelli Government Investigations Labor and Employment Commercial Litigation Litigation and Dispute Resolution
Associate

As a member of Polsinelli’s Government Investigations practice, Andrew assists clients in all aspects of white collar criminal defense and internal corporate investigations. Working to understand each client’s unique situation, he helps guide clients through government inquiries and provides counsel that aligns to their business strategies. Andrew has experience drafting briefs, memoranda and responding to discovery requests.

Prior to joining Polsinelli, Andrew served as a law clerk to The Honorable Judge Douglas L. Rayes on the United States District Court for the District of Arizona.

602-650-2014
Associate

When a client turns to William Ezzell, they can expect an attorney keenly focused on learning who they are and what they do. He is genuinely passionate about understanding the intricacies unique to each client’s business, and how they view the world from their perspective. William combines this passion with his diverse practice history to further a collective goal: the best possible outcome. As a member of the firm’s Government Investigations and White Collar Defense Group, William devotes the majority of his practice to representing companies and individuals faced with...

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