The Epoch Times reported that the stolen funds were spent by fraudsters to buy drugs and weapons. (Related: Government lost as much as $100 billion in stimulus money fraud during COVID-19 pandemic.)
The OIG found that some states were not able to protect funds from improper payments, and that the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) was granted to individuals who were not actually eligible.
Congress enacted the unemployment assistance program for Americans who lost their jobs as a result of the lockdowns and other destabilizing measures that state governments across the nation implemented and this was an instrumental feature of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act back in March 2020.
The OIG report published on September 30 indicated that in California, Georgia, Kentucky and Michigan, $30.4 billion of the $71.7 billion in PUA and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation were paid "improperly," making up 42.4 percent of the payouts.
About $9.9 billion was likely received by scammers, which included "criminal enterprises."
The report stated: "They have invested fraudulent UI [Unemployment Insurance] proceeds to further other criminal activity, such as purchasing guns and drugs. Individuals who we find are central to this conduct have been indicted on charges including racketeering conspiracy."
In California, about $20 billion was stolen by criminals, according to the California Employment Development Department (EDD). "By October 2021, EDD reported approximately $20 billion (11 percent of total benefits) were likely fraudulent, the vast majority of the federal PUA program," the state department said in a news release.
Since earlier in the year, OIG has opened more than 190,000 investigations that have resulted in more than 1,000 individuals being charged with crimes related to unemployment insurance fraud. OIG head Larry Turner said in a statement last month that some benefits were potentially distributed to people who filed for unemployment in multiple states, were in prison or were dead.
The watchdog agency said more than 57 million people filed for unemployment benefits in the first five months of the pandemic.
"The states struggled to process an unprecedented number of claims by workers as the federal government launched enhanced benefits and new programs to include gig workers, independent contractors and others who typically didn’t qualify for standard benefits," Governing.com reported.
OIG further said the infusion of hundreds of billions in federal funds into the program gave individuals and organized criminal groups a high-value target to exploit.
"That, combined with easily attainable stolen personally identifiable information and continuing UI program weaknesses, allowed criminals to defraud the system," it said.
The agency claimed that it focused on large-scale identity theft schemes involving multiple victims and organized criminal groups, including street gangs.
Last September, President Joe Biden signed an order that increases the statute of limitations for some fraud related to pandemic benefits to 10 years.
"My message to those cheats out there is this: You can't hide. We're going to find you," Biden said. "We're going to make you pay back what you stole and hold you accountable under the law."
However, many believe that a scamming operation this massive is not possible without help from people within the government.
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Watch the video below that talks about how the CARES Act was passed into law.
This video is from the Ministry of Truth channel on Brighteon.com.