Earlier this month, the Taxpayers Against Fraud Education Fund (TAFEF) formally announced the launch of a national COVID-19 Anti-Fraud Task Force. The Task Force will assist federal and state law enforcement in identifying, exposing, and prosecuting fraud related to COVID-19. It consists of former government prosecutors and experienced False Claims Act qui tam attorneys. Collectively, these attorneys have assisted federal and state governments in recovering over $20 billion. The Task Force is chaired by Jim Breen, and Whistleblower Law Collaborative founder Suzanne E. Durrell is a member.
COVID-19 Task Force to Assist Federal and State Law Enforcement
The COVID-19 Task Force will assist federal and state anti-fraud efforts. These efforts are essential to combat myriad schemes targeting trillions of taxpayer dollars being spent to fight the COVID-19 health and economic crises. Government investigations have already exposed some fraudulent schemes. The Department of Justice (DOJ) has brought several criminal cases for COVID-19 fraud. These include cases involving, for example:
- price gouging or hoarding of Personal Protective Equipment
- fraud in connection with the Paycheck Protection Program
- healthcare fraud, including COVID-19 testing scams.
In addition, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has been moving aggressively against investment scams. We applaud the work of DOJ and the SEC in combatting COVID-19 fraud. Unfortunately, however, scams uncovered to date merely scratch the surface. Government officials, as well as TAFEF and our firm, expect a surge in fraudulent activity. It is crucial to protect taxpayer dollars and public health during this crisis.
COVID-19 Task Force Provides Important Training and Educational Resources
TAFEF and its network of 400+ attorneys nationwide can supplement the stretched resources of federal and state law enforcement. Significantly, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) injected over $2 trillion of supplemental government funds into the economy. This staggering amount of money will prove irresistible to scammers out to exploit the pandemic for personal gain. The Government will have its hands full fighting COVID-19 fraud.
Drawing on the deep experience of its members, the Task Force “strives to shine a light on these fraud schemes and to support the fraud-fighting efforts of federal and state law enforcement,” according to its chair, Jim Breen. The Task Force also will engage in multi-faceted efforts to educate its members, whistleblowers, the public, the press, and government officials, on the power and scope of the False Claims Act and other government whistleblower programs in combatting fraud. As part of that effort, TAFEF launched a new weekly newsletter and dedicated webpages about COVID-19 fraud developments. It also plans several public webcasts on common fraud schemes.
Giving Voice to Whistleblowers and Protecting the Taxpayers
The government will spend unprecedented amounts of public money fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. We need an equally unprecedented effort by whistleblowers and whistleblower attorneys to help the government fight COVID-related fraud. Anti-fraud attorneys founded TAFEF in 1986 as a nonprofit public interest organization. Its mission is to combat fraud against the government and protect taxpayer funds through private-public partnerships.
The federal False Claims Act and state false claims acts with their qui tam provisions, as well as other whistleblower programs such as the SEC’s are premised on a public-private partnership to fight fraud. We endorse the view of TAFEF President Jeb White that:
TAFEF is uniquely positioned and qualified to assist with this public-private initiative. With specialized expertise and an attorney network spanning the country, TAFEF has a national vantage point to identify emerging trends impacting multiple jurisdictions and government programs.
As proud members of TAFEF since 2003, we can attest to its effectiveness on behalf of whistleblowers and the taxpayers. We laud TAFEF’s efforts and stand ready to help in any way.
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