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U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations - Operation Stolen Promise

April 15, 2020

As the nation bands together to fight coronavirus, there are individuals and organizations operating around the globe seeking to exploit and profit from the pandemic.

From financial fraud schemes targeting vulnerable populations, to importing prohibited pharmaceuticals and medical supplies, to websites defrauding consumers, these illicit activities compromise legitimate trade and financial systems and endanger the public at a critical time.  

However, fighting back and using its unique and expansive authorities, strategic footprint and partnerships worldwide, Homeland Security Investigation’s OPERATION STOLEN PROMISE protects the country from the threat of COVID-19-related fraud and criminal activity.

Statistics (as of April 21, 2020)

  • 344 COVID-19 related seizures, including prohibited COVID-19 test kits, prohibited pharmaceuticals, counterfeit masks and more
  • 11,000+ COVID-19 domains sinkholed
  • 13,442 domains analyzed
  • 202 criminal investigations initiated
  • 54 disruptions
  • 8 leads from private sector and financial partners
  • 11 search warrants
  • 9 criminal arrests

HSI components supporting Operation Stolen Promise:

  • The National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, which stands at the forefront of the United States government’s response to combatting global intellectual property (IP) theft and enforcing international trade laws, will serve as the primary government entity for exchanging information and intelligence related to COVID-19 illicit criminal activity.
  • HSI International Operations will work alongside domestic and foreign law enforcement, regulatory agencies, financial institutions, and non-governmental organizations to identify, interdict, and investigate COVID-19 related financial schemes targeting both the public and private sectors, including government, businesses, and individuals.
  • The Illicit Finance and Proceeds of Crime Unit will work closely with the Department of Justice, Consumer Protection Branch in support of HSI investigations related to COVID-19 fraud. Scammers have attempted to profit from the pandemic through fraudulent fundraising for fake charities, various medical scams and online sales of counterfeit medicines and medical supplies, such as testing kits and personal protective equipment. HSI will direct special agents to pursue criminals who are engaged in crimes of victimization, with a particular focus on those who exploit vulnerable populations including the elderly.
  • The Cyber Crimes Center and its cybersecurity partners will use the full extent of their investigative, analytical and technical resources to collaboratively process and enrich data to target individuals and criminal organizations attempting to exploit this pandemic for illegal financial gains via fraudulent schemes. The Center is committed to increasing enforcement by targeting online platforms and dark web sites enabling the sale and distribution of illicit materials related to COVID-19 and victimizing the American people.

As criminal activity stemming from COVID-19 continues to surge, HSI recognizes that its response must be equally robust. HSI’s unique customs and border search authorities – combined with its expertise in cyber and financial investigations – is best positioned to lead these efforts to combat fraud associated with the pandemic.

HSI encourages the public to report suspected illicit criminal activity or fraudulent schemes related to the COVID-19 pandemic, via email at covid19fraud@dhs.gov
Last Reviewed/Updated: 04/22/2020