COVID fraudsters face higher penalties under new bill signed by New York Governor Hochul

Scammers will face higher penalties and tipsters will reap greater rewards for fraud related to the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to two new laws signed into law by New York Governor Kathy Hochul on Wednesday.

The legislation is part of an effort to crack down on fraudsters who take advantage of state emergencies — as these schemes have drained billions of taxpayer dollars since 2020.

“We send a clear message: New York has zero tolerance for fraud, especially in our most critical times of need,” Hochul said in a statement.

“These new laws will protect New Yorkers and encourage them to report fraud and assist in recovery efforts while cracking down on bad actors and their deceptive attempts to generate profits in an emergency.”

Both laws passed at the Statehouse in Albany earlier this summer with overwhelming majorities.

The first empowers the Attorney General to prosecute fraudsters for up to three times the amount stolen or $15,000, “whichever is greater”.

The second allows individuals to “sue civilly on behalf of the government to help recover defrauded money” and receive a portion of the funds, according to the legislation.

The new laws will encourage New Yorkers to report fraud and help recovery efforts.
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New York is tired of people taking advantage of state emergencies.
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“As with other states of emergency like Super Storm Sandy or after 9/11, the need to respond quickly creates opportunities for fraud perpetrators,” lawmakers wrote in the bill. “With New York battling a pandemic, public funds are limited, and in such difficult circumstances, we must incentivize whistleblowers to provide information to help the state recover funds and deter criminal transactions. .”

New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement Wednesday that the laws will help her office continue its efforts to crack down on those who take advantage of the state during difficult times.

“My office has taken significant steps to stop scams, fight price gouging for essential goods and recover millions of dollars for consumers who have been misled,” she said. “This new law will strengthen our ability to prosecute those who try to take advantage of New Yorkers.”

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Many scammers were overcharging for COVID-19 tests which were in high demand.
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Thomas DiNapoli
New York taxpayers have lost billions of dollars under state comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.
Pacific Press/LightRocket via Ge

State Sen. Zellnor Myrie (D-Brooklyn) said he helped sponsor legislation to discourage pandemic-related fraud, but also hoped the legislation would prevent scams in future emergencies.

“This new law is a clear statement to potential fraudsters and scammers: if you take advantage of New York consumers during this difficult time, your cost of doing business is about to increase much more,” he said. . “…increased penalties for these white-collar crimes will help deter them now and in future crises.”

New York lost $11 billion in taxpayer cash to outright fraud and overpayments as unemployment claims soared during the height of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, under the government of the time. Andrew Cuomo, State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli found last month.

“There was a good intention to squeeze out so much money – but the problem was that it made the system even more vulnerable to fraud, especially when it came to identity theft,” he said. in his report.

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