WASHINGTON (Texas) – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) announced Wednesday the launch of an operation to combat COVID-19 related fraud and other criminal activity.
Operation Stolen Promise is a collaboration with multiple federal departments and agencies, along with business and industry representatives.
According to a release, the agencies say criminal organization are smuggling and selling counterfeit safety equipment and prohibited testing kits, medicines, hygiene products, as well as running illicit websites to sell merchandise.
“HSI will bring every asset to bear against anyone targeting consumers with financial schemes or fraudulent products that jeopardize the health and safety of Americans,” said HSI Acting Executive Associate Director Alysa D. Erichs. “This unified effort brings a whole-of-government approach to monitor, investigate and arrest those responsible for endangering the public with criminal acts of fraud related to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
In the coming weeks, it is expected that financial fraud scams involving financial relief, COVID-19 stimulus checks, and traditional boiler room operations will increase.
All these fraud scams also impact government public benefit agencies that are in the process of distributing aid and providing assistance.
As of April 14, HSI has opened over 130 investigations nationwide, seized over three million dollars in illicit proceeds; made nine arrests; executed seven search warrants; sinkhole over 11,000 COVID-19 domain names and worked alongside U.S. Customs and Border Protection to seize over 225 shipments of mislabeled, fraudulent, unauthorized or prohibited COVID-19 test kits.