Axes reports that up to $ 400 billion in unemployment aid distributed by the federal government during the pandemic may have been stolen, in part by criminals in countries like China and Russia.

This amount represents almost half of the unemployment benefits distributed over the past year.

“Most of the money probably ended up in the hands of foreign crime syndicates,” the report said, “making it not only a theft, but a matter of national security.”

Of that $ 400 billion, Haywood Talcove, CEO of LexisNexis Risk Solutions, says up to 70% ended up in the hands of criminal companies in China, Nigeria, Russia and other countries.

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Pandemic unemployment relief stolen

Republican lawmakers have pushed to limit unemployment benefits over concerns about fraudulent claims.

Representative Jackie Walorski (R-IN) introduced a bill to tackle unemployment fraud from COVID unemployment assistance programs in May.

“Improved federal unemployment benefits aren’t just hurting our economic recovery – they are turning Americans into easy prey for fraudsters and criminals,” Walorski said.

At the time, Republicans feared that $ 200 billion had been diverted from the American taxpayer. The Axios report is double that already staggering amount.

Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said that although the GOP warned that COVID unemployment programs were very vulnerable to fraud, “all Democrats voted to expand these programs, without conduct a single surveillance investigation “.

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Where is the money?

Greg Gutfeld, co-host of ‘The Five,’ points out that Suzi Levine, a person appointed by Biden to oversee federal unemployment benefits that are part of the president’s $ 1.9 trillion COVID relief program, played a similar role as Washington State Commissioner. Department of Employment Security.

Bloomberg Law reports on Levine’s efforts in this role:

Under his leadership, the Washington Department paid $ 600 million in fraudulent unemployment claims to a Nigerian criminal ring (later recouping around $ 350 million) and suffered months of delays in paying many legitimate benefit claims. of State. The department has also been accused of resisting efforts by state auditors to investigate its operations.

“We have members of the government who have been swindled by Nigerian crooks,” Gutfeld mocked.

“I know grandmothers who don’t get swindled by Nigerian crooks and princes, the fact that this person may have ‘failed’ … is taxpayer abuse.”

The White House responds

The White House blamed the Trump administration for the problem.

Biden’s economist administrator, Gene Sperling, said: “Widespread state-level pandemic unemployment insurance fraud during the previous administration is one of the most serious challenges that we inherited. “

“President Biden has made it clear that this kind of criminal union activity is despicable and unacceptable. That’s why we passed $ 2 billion for UI modernization in the US bailout, instituted a Department of Justice anti-fraud task force, and a whole-of-government initiative against identity theft and fraud. public benefits.

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