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SPRINGFIELD – As a frightening pandemic swept across our country and the world in 2020, medical researchers and doctors scrambled to find ways to stop the spread and save lives. As during most catastrophic events, ways to commit fraud spread everywhere, creating even more victims and an extra element of suffering. Initial action was established to prosecute scammers and now, a measure from State Senator Linda Holmes has been signed into law to extend the period of limitation on prosecutions from three years to five.

House Bill 3304 says that prosecution may begin within five years following the discovery of the fraudulent act. The current statute of limitations period for fraud relating to COVID-19 relief programs is three years; this change allows the Attorney General’s Office more time to act.

“The variety of scams is staggering, perpetrated in the form of stolen identities to claim unemployment benefits, or posing as government officials demanding personal information or threatening fines, forfeiture or arrest if you don’t pay them,” said Holmes (D-Aurora). “The volume and ongoing attempts of COVID-related fraud warrant additional time to bring the fraudsters to justice.”

This bill helps ensure the state can prosecute serious offenders and recapture funds.

According to Office of Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, much of the pandemic-related fraud activity took place during 2020-2021. For some state charges, the statute of limitations is three years, so investigations with conduct from 2020 are coming up in 2023.

In 2022 alone, the Office of the Attorney General charged 15 individuals with COVID-related fraud. They currently have open investigations on over 85 individuals. These are paper heavy investigations requiring several rounds of subpoenas that average about 60 days to return per round, which makes these investigations time consuming. 

House Bill 3304 was signed into law Friday. It will take effect Jan. 1, 2024.

For more information on the U.S. Justice Department’s nationwide efforts and ideas to combat COVID-19 fraud, visit: https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus/combatingfraud