COVID-fraud crackdown has netted over $3B since 2021

A new report indicates that the Fraud Enforcement Task Force filed criminal charges against more than 3,500 people.

  • The Justice Department's effort to crack down on pandemic fraud has recovered more than $3 billion since 2021. In a new report, the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force said that it has filed criminal charges against more than 3,500 people and won more than 400 civil settlements and judgments worth over $100 million. The task force has also won pandemic fraud criminal cases against more than 2,000 people. Over the last year, DoJ added more resources in each state by naming assistant attorneys general focused on pandemic fraud enforcement. Additionally, DoJ established five COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Strike Forces across six federal districts to pursue the most impactful criminal fraud cases.
  • Another federal cyber executive is heading out the door. Sean Connelly, who has led many of the major federal cybersecurity initiatives over the last decade, is departing government for the private sector. The TIC program manager and senior cyber architect at CISA will join Zscaler. He will lead their international zero trust compliance efforts. Connelly is leaving federal service after 11 years at CISA and seven plus years as a contractor, working for the State Department and NOAA. Federal News Network has learned Connelly’s last day will be April 19. During his time at CISA, Connelly has been the face and brains behind the TIC and zero trust programs.
  • A one-stop shop for Americans to access government benefits and services is about to test out facial recognition. The General Services Administration (GSA) is launching a pilot program in May that will allow individuals to sign into with a “selfie.” Facial recognition tools will match the photo to a form of government ID, like a driver’s license, to verify a user’s identity. GSA said this will help people sign up for federal services easily, while protecting them from identity theft and cyberattacks. The agency claims these facial recognition tools will meet federal identity proofing standards. That’s after a federal watchdog found GSA misled agency customers for years about meeting those standards.
  • A Pathways Program overhaul is aiming to open the doors to more job candidates. Skills-based hiring and reduced requirements will now be major priorities for agencies who use the Pathways Program. The Office of Personnel Management has issued a final rule to update the program, focused on bringing in more early-career federal talent. Under the changes, federal interns will see lower requirements for converting into full-time federal jobs. And graduates of programs like the Peace Corps or Registered Apprenticeships can also now apply to Pathways, regardless of whether they have a college degree. The Biden administration is hoping the changes will bring in more diverse federal employees and ease hiring burdens on agencies.
  • While the details to the Navy's Project Overmatch are veiled in secrecy, officials said project delivery continues to be ahead of schedule. Project Overmatch already provides software capabilities to at least three carrier strike groups and numbered fleets. Rear Adm. Doug Small said the service is laser-focused on fielding software rather than buying new hardware. Project Overmatch is the Navy’s contribution to the Pentagon’s CJADC2 effort to connect all networks.
  • Employees at the Defense Health Agency now have a solid outline of their union rights and other workforce protocols. A new labor-management agreement with the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) details, among other things, the agency's policies on work hours, leave, official time, and telework. The interim agreement is effective immediately for DHA's 38,000 bargaining unit employees, who first voted to unionize in 2022. In the meantime, AFGE said it will be training local union officials to make sure the agreement is carried out in practice.
  • Junior enlisted service members could get a 15% hike to their base pay as soon as next year. The plan is part of a comprehensive military quality-of-life report unveiled by lawmakers on Thursday. While service members receive pay increases every year, they are not keeping up with inflation. The proposed pay raise would bring the salaries of junior enlisted service members to over $30,000 annually. Lawmakers vowed the report’s recommendation will be in the 2025 National Defense Authorization Act.
  • A Senate committee is trying to find out why the Postal Service keeps raising its mail prices. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on Tuesday. It will hear from Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, as well as a postal regulator that has been approving these higher mail prices. The USPS inspector general and the chairman of the USPS Board of Governors are also slated to testify. USPS plans to raise the price of a first-class stamp to 73 cents in July. That is its sixth price increase since 2020.
    (Oversight of the United States Postal Service - Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee)

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