Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz announced today the release of a report examining the management and coordination of pandemic-related fraud allegations and referrals between the Criminal Division (CRM) and the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys (EOUSA). CRM and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices (USAOs), supported by EOUSA, prosecute federal program fraud related to the pandemic and the number of such cases continues to increase. Despite standing controls, the sheer magnitude of $5 trillion in pandemic relief funding provided an opportunity for wrongdoers to exploit a national emergency to obtain relief funds.
The DOJ Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found that while CRM and EOUSA have provided guidance, training, and policies to their prosecutors, they can better leverage the limited resources available to address fraud by enhancing the tracking, management, and notification of fraud referrals and initiated cases.
The OIG’s findings included the following:
- EOUSA and CRM Can Strengthen Communication and Collaboration for the Different Types of Frauds and Referrals. Communication regarding matters across different COVID-19 relief programs can be strengthened to minimize duplicative efforts in investigating and prosecuting cases and ensure the proper dissemination of important pandemic-related information.
- Expanded Coordinator Guidance by EOUSA Can Produce a More Cohesive Response to Pandemic Fraud. USAO COVID Coordinators lack comprehensive guidance on the roles, responsibilities, and practices of this position. Considering that the circumstances and specifics of pandemic fraud have continuously evolved since the start of the pandemic, refreshed guidance, training, and tools will facilitate information sharing and promote a more organized, cohesive response to pandemic fraud matters.
- EOUSA Must Ensure Accurate Case Reporting for Informed Decision-making. Data in USAOs’ case management system sometimes does not reconcile with internal EOUSA tracking. Accurate information and tracking will allow EOUSA to better monitor efforts to address pandemic-related fraud.
We also identified successful prosecutorial practices employed by various USAOs, which, once shared by EOUSA across the districts, could further improve DOJ’s response to pandemic-related fraud.
The DOJ OIG made six recommendations to improve CRM’s and EOUSA’s management of their pandemic-related caseloads. CRM and EOUSA agreed with all six recommendations.