Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) joined Sens. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) in sending a bipartisan letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) commending the agency for its quick action to combat online fraud related to unemployment benefits, dangerous counterfeit personal protective equipment, and counterfeit vaccines. The Senators also expressed support for Operation Stolen Promise 2.0, an initiative to protect against counterfeit vaccines, and their added focus on the risk of counterfeit vaccines going into this next phase of recovery. Additionally, the Senators asked HSI to provide Congress with a report on the trends and observations of the types of crime they identified during the pandemic.
“In April U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) launched Operation Stolen Promise,” the senators wrote. “This operation is an impressive collaboration of federal agencies, business leaders, industry representatives, and international law enforcement partnerships. We are grateful for the quick and decisive actions HSI has taken to address the new challenges to public health and safety created by this pandemic. As of November 27, 2020, Operation Stolen Promise’s efforts have led to 187 criminal arrests, 1,653 seizures of prohibited COVID-19 items, such as counterfeit test kits, counterfeit masks, and banned pharmaceuticals. Additionally, Operation Stolen Promise resulted in $ 27.8 million in illicit proceeds seized, $18.8 million in disrupted fraudulent transactions, and $21.6 million in Cares Act fraud seizures.”
The senators continued, “As Operation Stolen Promise 2.0 progresses, you must take any and all necessary actions to stop the spread of misinformation about counterfeit vaccines and to stop the sale of such fake vaccines in the United States. You also must regularly track new trends in counterfeit COVID-19 products, whether they be threats, disruptions, or potential threats. It is important that we look back on the challenges of this year to learn how to better prevent the same threats to public safety in the future.”
Individuals should never attempt to purchase COVID-19 vaccines or treatments online.
Full text of the letter can be found HERE.