CHARLESTON, W.Va. – United States Attorney Mike Stuart of the Southern District of West Virginia today urged the public to report suspected fraud schemes related to COVID-19 (the Coronavirus) by calling the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline (1-866-720-5721) or to the NCDF e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org.
In coordination with the Department of Justice, Attorney General William Barr has directed U.S. Attorneys to prioritize the investigation and prosecution of Coronavirus fraud schemes.
“There is no higher priority for me at this time than ensuring that I do everything in my power to have the back of the American people and the citizens of West Virginia,” said United States Attorney Mike Stuart. “The prosecution of fraudsters and scammers has been a priority of mine since becoming the United States Attorney but, especially at this time, we will simply not tolerate anyone taking advantage of the public. Fraudsters and scammers who take advantage of the COVID-19 national crisis will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and I will seek the maximum penalty in every case. I will use every resource at my disposal to protect our citizens from those that would seek to further harm those that may already be suffering at this challenging time. If you suspect fraud, I urge you to contact the NCDF hotline. I have a record and reputation for being tough. Anyone taking advantage of our citizens at this time hasn’t seen anything yet.”
Some examples of these schemes include:
- Individuals and businesses selling fake cures for COVID-19 online and engaging in other forms of fraud.
- Phishing emails from entities posing as the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Malicious websites and apps that appear to share Coronavirus-related information to gain and lock access to your devices until payment is received.
- Seeking donations fraudulently for illegitimate or non-existent charitable organizations.
- Medical providers obtaining patient information for COVID-19 testing and then using that information to fraudulently bill for other tests and procedures.
In a memorandum to U.S. Attorneys issued March 19, Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen also directed eachU.S. Attorney to appoint a Coronavirus Fraud Coordinator to serve as the legal counsel for the federal judicial district on matters relating to the Coronavirus, direct the prosecution of Coronavirus-related crimes, and to conduct outreach and awareness activities. U.S. Attorney Stuart has designated Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) John Frail, one of his most experienced AUSAs, as the Coronavirus Fraud Coordinator for the Southern District of West Virginia. Given the gravity of the situation, coordination is being personally led and directed by U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart. Stuart has directed all AUSAs within the district to be available around the clock to assist and prosecute any matters that arise relating to the current national crisis.
The NCDF can receive and enter complaints into a centralized system that can be accessed by all U.S. Attorneys, as well as Justice Department litigating and law enforcement components to identify, investigate and prosecute fraud schemes. The NCDF coordinates complaints with 16 additional federal law enforcement agencies, as well as state Attorneys General and local authorities.
To find more about Department of Justice resources and information, please visit www.justice.gov/coronavirus.