Axios reports that as much as $400 billion in unemployment relief doled out by the federal government during the pandemic may have been stolen, in part by criminals in countries such as China and Russia.

That amount represents nearly half of the unemployment benefits distributed in the past year.

“The bulk of the money likely ended in the hands of foreign crime syndicates,” the reports states, “making this not just theft, but a matter of national security.”

Of that $400 billion, Haywood Talcove, the CEO of LexisNexis Risk Solutions, claims that as much as 70 percent ended up in the hands of criminal enterprises in China, Nigeria, Russia, and other countries.

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Pandemic Unemployment Relief Stolen

Republican lawmakers have been pushing to limit unemployment relief due to concerns over fraudulent claims.

Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN) introduced a bill to combat unemployment fraud from COVID jobless aid programs in May.

“Enhanced federal unemployment benefits are not only hurting our economic recovery – they’re turning Americans into easy prey for fraudsters and criminals,” Walorski claimed.

At the time, Republicans referenced concern that $200 billion had been scammed away from the American taxpayer. The Axios report represents twice that already staggering amount.

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said that while the GOP had warned that COVID unemployment programs were highly vulnerable to fraud, “every Democrat voted to extend these programs, without holding a single oversight investigation.”

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Where Is The Money?

Greg Gutfeld, co-host of ‘The Five,’ points out that Suzi Levine, a Biden appointee tapped to oversee the federal unemployment benefits that are part of the president’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief package, served in a similar role as commissioner of Washington state’s Employment Security Department.

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

Under her leadership, the Washington department paid out $600 million in fraudulent unemployment claims to a Nigerian crime ring (later recovering about $350 million) and suffered months-long delays in paying many of the state’s legitimate benefits claims. The department also faced accusations of resisting efforts by state auditors to investigate its operations.

“We have people in government who got defrauded by Nigerian scammers,” Gutfeld derided.

“I know grandmothers who aren’t getting defrauded by Nigerian scammers and princes, the fact that this person was able to ‘fail up’ … it’s an abuse of the taxpayer.”

White House Responds

The White House blamed the Trump administration for the problem.

Biden admin economist Gene Sperling said, “Widespread fraud at the state level in pandemic unemployment insurance during the previous Administration is one of the most serious challenges we inherited.”

“President Biden has been clear that this type of activity from criminal syndicates is despicable and unacceptable. It is why we passed $2 billion for UI modernizations in the American Rescue Plan, instituted a Department of Justice Anti-Fraud Task Force and an all-of-government Identity Theft and Public Benefits Initiative.”

 

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