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Tracking Down CARES Crooks

At least Alecto returned the cash, or planned to do so. What about the thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of CARES Act recipients who took the money and ran?

In April, Alecto received a reported $3.5 million through the federal CARES Act, part of the funding for which was intended to help hospitals affected by the COVID-19 epidemic. The California firm received the money for Ohio Valley Medical Center in Wheeling and Fairmont Regional Medical Center. Both of the hospitals had been closed, OVMC last fall and FRMC earlier this year.

It appears that federal officials used an old database to distribute the CARES funds. Alecto officials did not seek the money and said they were going to return it.

Alecto was not the only entity receiving CARES funding improperly. Among the biggest headaches in that regard has been unemployment compensation aid distributed to the states.

As we reported earlier this year, hundreds of people in West Virginia — or claiming to, even though they actually reside in other states and countries — took unemployment compensation funding illegally. Many stole personal information about real Mountain State residents to do so.

It is a national outrage. “About 10% of (unemployment compensation) payments are improper under the best of times, and we are in the worst of times,” U.S. Labor Department Inspector General Scott Dahl told The Associated Press.

As much as $26 billion in unemployment compensation aid intended for people who lost jobs as a result of COVID-19 was paid out improperly, Dahl estimated. Much of that went to criminals who intended to steal the benefits, often through identity theft.

Trillions of dollars in federal and state funding have been used in attempts to blunt the effect of COVID-19 on Americans. Tracking it all down would be a daunting task.

Still, state and federal officials should do their best, if only to discourage criminals from taking advantage of taxpayers during the next epidemic.

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