COVID relief programs lost $100 billion to fraud: Secret Service
A man hiding money in his suit (Shutterstock.com)

On Wednesday, Axios reported that the amount of money stolen from COVID-19 relief programs through fraud is approaching $100 billion.

"'The sheer size of the pot is enticing to the criminals,' said Roy Dotson, the Secret Service pandemic fraud recovery coordinator," said the report. "The Justice Department said last week that its fraud section had prosecuted 150+ defendants in more than 95 criminal cases related to the Paycheck Protection Program. The government has seized $75 million in cash, plus numerous real estate properties and luxury items bought with PPP proceeds."

The PPP is intended to help small businesses keep workers employed through shutdowns and other COVID-related losses, but many people have tried to fraudulently use the money for other purposes.

An earlier report indicated that up to 500 Americans have been charged in these schemes, as of March.

In one such case from Texas, according to the Justice Department, the defendant "obtained approximately $17.3 million and used the proceeds to purchase multiple homes, jewelry, and luxury vehicles." In another case, a venture capitalist and Republican donor in Irvine, California took $5.1 million intended for small businesses and bought a Lamborghini, Bentley and Ferrari.