What Happened to All That COVID Cash? As Much as a Trillion Dollars Was Stolen, Misused, or Misappropriated

In the spring of 2020, the world’s economic engine was shut down. America, like almost every country on earth, bought into the panic and shuttered our economy. Ostensibly it was because of a virus, but COVID didn’t shut down businesses and punish people for sitting on a beach. The government did that. A little man with an inflated sense of grandeur stood in front of a podium three years ago, and every government, from local municipalities to state governments, listened to him and enforced emergency powers. America shut down.


To make up for throwing almost every business and individual into an economic tailspin, Congress did what it does best – it passed spending bills. The first, on March 27, 2020, was called the CARES Act. And a year later, the American Rescue Plan. All told, Congress allocated around $5 trillion in money that America didn’t have.

$1.8 trillion was supposed to go to individuals. $1.7 trillion was earmarked for businesses, with $80 billion going to the airlines. State and local governments were supposed to get $745 billion. Where did it really go? As it turns out, money disappeared into black holes of fraud, grift, theft, and mismanagement.

In California, the Golden State lost at least $20 billion in 2020 to domestic and international fraudsters. One estimate puts the actual loss at $32 billion. And it was easy. Crooks simply filled out the paperwork online with stolen Social Security numbers. Apparently, no one was watching the store. The US Labor Department audited California’s lax accounting and found a staggering 36.7 percent of payments were either fraudulent or simply “improper.”

The grift was so profitable that the federal government doesn’t even know how much was stolen, or wasted, or dropped into a hole. An early estimate put the waste and theft at 10 percent of the total amount Congress approved. $280 Billion is an early estimate of what was stolen or disappeared in the first two years. In contrast, Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme took decades and totaled $64 billion. Through mismanagement, lack of oversight, and plain negligence, the US Congress, with help from state governments, gave thieves $280 billion in a matter of months, not decades.


Michael Horowitz, the U.S. Justice Department inspector general who chairs the federal Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, told Congress the fraud is “clearly in the tens of billions of dollars” and may eventually exceed $100 billion.

Horowitz told the AP he was sticking with that estimate, but won’t be certain about the number until he gets more solid data.

“I’m hesitant to get too far out on how much it is,” he said. “But clearly it’s substantial and the final accounting is still at least a couple of years away.”

But an expert who spoke with Rolling Stone Magazine said bluntly that the estimate of $100 billion or even $400 billion is low. Way too low. Haywood Talcove, the CEO of LexisNexis Risk Solutions, said:

The real number is much higher. I think the government lost a trillion dollars due to fraud in the pandemic. One trillion.

It isn’t like a robber stepped out of a dark alley and stuck a gun to the head of Congress. This wasn’t a surprise mugging. Experts saw it coming. There were signs all over the dark web that fraudsters were gearing up to steal billions. Before the money started to flow, Talcove warned Trump’s advisors:

It’s going to be the biggest fraud in the history of our country.

Talcove told them how it would happen. He was ignored.

Some examples:

  1. Someone claimed to be Senator Dianne Feinstein requesting unemployment. The government paid.
  2. A guy named John Doe was paid unemployment.
  3. Mr. Poopy Pants was also paid on his (or its) unemployment application.
  4. A pastor in Florida was indicted on fraud charges for allegedly stealing $8 million by forging his accountant’s signature.
  5. A Chicago man was indicted for selling fake COVID tests. His haul was $83 million.

A lot of crooks were pretty brazen or they knew that no one was watching the store. A guy in San Francisco put in a claim for business loss, and he was paid. He claimed the lockdown had closed his business. What was his business doing? He had a “pee-pee in a Coke” business.

A guy named Fontrell Antonio Baines, aka Nuke Bizzle (the rapper), stole $704,760 from the California Employment Development Department (EDD). It took “Bizzle” less than three months to steal it. I didn’t have to add “allegedly” because he’s serving six years in prison.

The largest domestic fraud was an indictment of 47 defendants for allegedly stealing from the Federal Child Nutrition Program. It was a Non-Profit called “Feeding Our Future” based in Minnesota. The only people they fed were themselves — to the tune of $250 million.

All of that is bad. Really bad, but a Romanian gang would likely say, “Hold my beer.” They “allegedly” took LA Country for $38 billion in EBT card fraud.


Most of that money is gone for good. All told, as much as a trillion dollars was either lost to thieves or thrown away through mismanagement and/or negligence by governments across the land.

The amount stolen is appalling – the lack of caring is astounding.


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