Top federal, state prosecutors form Ga. COVID-19 fraud task force

Top federal, state prosecutors form Ga. COVID-19 fraud task force
The task force will investigate claims of fraud (Source: WALB)

MACON, Ga. (WALB) - Georgia’s leading state and federal prosecutors have formed a coronavirus fraud task force, aimed at better protecting the citizens of Georgia from criminal fraud arising from the pandemic.

The task force will serve to open channels of communication between partner agencies and more rapidly share information about COVID-19 fraud, while ensuring each fraud complaint is reported to the appropriate prosecuting agency. The task force member agencies include the Office of the Governor of Georgia, the Office of the Attorney General of Georgia, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Georgia and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia.

Georgia’s three U.S. attorneys, the Attorney General of Georgia and the Executive Counsel for the Governor’s Office serve on the task force.

“To all would-be scammers: Anyone who uses this pandemic to defraud Georgians will be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said Charlie Peeler, U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Georgia. “The creation of this unified task force better prepares us to investigate and prosecute criminal acts of fraud related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The law enforcement community is strong in our state. I want to thank our partners at the local, state and federal level dedicated to protecting our citizens from fraudsters.”

“My office is honored to work with this task force in our state’s fight against the spread of COVID-19. As a team, we are committed to putting Georgians first to ensure their safety and well-being as we address this public health state of emergency,” said Gov. Brian Kemp.

“Our office has received hundreds of complaints regarding scams, price gouging and other issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and we won’t tolerate those who are taking advantage of consumers and interfering with our frontline workers’ response to the crisis,” said Attorney General Chris Carr. “This partnership between the State of Georgia and our U.S. attorneys will enable us to work together to investigate and, as appropriate, prosecute those who violate our laws. We will leave no stone unturned as we protect all Georgians.”

“Opportunistic criminals are targeting the most vulnerable among us with COVID-19 scams, but our office and law enforcement and prosecutorial partners remain vigilant,” said Bobby Christine, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. “We continue to detect, investigate and prosecute criminal conduct, and reassure our law-abiding citizens that their safety and security is our primary focus.”

“Thieves never stop searching for ways to take advantage of unsuspecting people,” said Byung Pak, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia. “Citizens can rest assured that we will bring every asset to bear against fraudsters and those who use this crisis as an opportunity to commit fraud. Also, we encourage anyone who believes they are the victim of a scam, or may have been contacted by someone stating they represent a government agency to contact this task force immediately.”

Within each task force member agency, an appointed fraud complaint coordinator will oversee the cases and remain in regular contact with partner law enforcement agencies. The appointed coordinators are as follows: Jim Crane, Assistant U.S. attorney, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Georgia; David Dove, Executive Counsel, Office of the Governor of Georgia; Anne Infinger, deputy attorney general, Consumer Protection Division, Office of the Attorney General of Georgia; Russell Phillips, assistant U.S. attorney, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia; and Patrick Schwedler, assistant U.S. attorney, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia.


The public is urged to be on the lookout for any of these COVID-19 scams, which can be reported to the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline (1-866) 720-5721 or to the NCDF e-mail address disaster@leo.gov:

• Treatment scams: Scammers are selling fake vaccines, medicines, and cures for COVID-19.

• Supply scams: Scammers are claiming they have in-demand products, like cleaning and household supplies, and medical supplies, but when an order is placed, the scammer takes the money and never delivers the order.

• Charity scams: Scammers are fraudulently soliciting donations for non-existent charities to help people affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Scammers often use names that are similar to the names of real charities.

• Phishing scams: Scammers, posing as national and global health authorities, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are sending fake emails and texts to trick the recipient into sharing personal information like account numbers, Social Security numbers, and login IDs and passwords.

• App scams: Scammers are creating COVID-19 related apps that contain malware designed to steal the user’s personal information.

• Provider scams: Scammers pretending to be doctors and hospitals demand payment for COVID19 treatment allegedly provided to a friend or family member of the victim.

• Investment scams: To promote the sale of stock in certain companies—particularly small companies, about which there is little publicly available information—scammers are making false and misleading claims that those companies can prevent, detect or cure COVID-19.

The Consumer Protection Division (CPD) of the Office of the Attorney General of Georgia has received more than 600 complaints of price gouging or scams related to COVID-19, the majority regarding food, toilet paper, water and hand sanitizer. The public can file complaints with the CPD by calling (1-800) 869- 1123 (toll-free) or at consumer.ga.gov.

Copyright 2020 by WALB