As confirmed U.S. COVID-19 cases grew exponentially, federal prosecutors warned the public to beware of opportunistic fraudsters seeking to exploit fear and uncertainty for personal gain. The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), among others, issued dire warnings about the potential increase in fraud, price gouging, and similar crimes whose perpetrators would see to take advantage of the panic surrounding the virus. At the urging of Attorney General William Barr, U.S. Attorney’s Offices have established district-based COVID Task Forces, often in partnership with the FBI and state and local law enforcement agencies. Memorandum from the Attorney General regarding COVID-19 Department of Justice Priorities (March 16, 2020). In this short time, the DOJ has now charged its first set of COVID-related fraud and price-gouging cases.
Four principal categories of COVID-related crimes have emerged from the initial wave of cases brought by the DOJ: (1) Those involving the sale of sham medical treatments; (2) those involving fraud related to the sale of legitimate medical equipment; (3) those involving fraud in charging the government for unnecessary medical procedures; and (4) those related to price gouging much needed supplies.
Sham Medical Treatments
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