Federal-state task force formed to investigate COVID-related fraud

NEWARK, NJ — U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal and New Jersey acting State Comptroller Kevin Walsh announced March 30 the formation of a joint federal-state task force to investigate and prosecute a wide range of misconduct arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, including the unlawful hoarding of medical supplies, price gouging, charity scams, procurement fraud, insurance fraud, phishing schemes, and false and misleading investment opportunities.

The New Jersey COVID-19 Fraud Task Force will marshal the collective investigative power of federal and state law enforcement agencies by forming joint investigative and prosecution teams to address fraud complaints quickly. In addition, the task force will share information publicly about common frauds so individuals and businesses can better protect themselves. Residents are encouraged to report possible misconduct through a hotline established by the National Center for Disaster Fraud at 866-720-5721 or disaster@leo.gov. Complainants may remain anonymous.

“Attorney General Grewal and I have a well-established, close working relationship, and we both felt it was incredibly important at this time that we combine our resources and form a joint COVID-19 Task Force,” Carpenito said. “Our two offices, working in concert with all of our law enforcement partners, will ensure that there is a solid front protecting the public from criminals who are attempting to illegally profit from this health crisis. Whether you’re price-gouging on necessities or hawking phony cures or protections, if you’re trying to rip off the public, we will find you and come after you.”

“An unprecedented public health crisis creates an unprecedented opportunity for scammers and con artists,” Grewal said. “Now more than ever, we need to work together to protect our community from fraud.”

“Our investigators, auditors and attorneys stand ready to combat any fraud, waste or abuse connected to our state’s battle against COVID-19,” Walsh said.

In addition to the three offices that formed the task force, it will include the following federal agencies: FBI; Department of Health and Human Services; U.S. Secret Service; U.S. Postal Inspection Service; Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations; Social Security Administration; and the U.S. Department of Education.

In addition, the task force will include several divisions within the Attorney General’s Office, including New Jersey State Police, Division of Criminal Justice, Division of Consumer Affairs, Division of Law, Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor, and Office of Public Integrity and Accountability.