Trio Arrested in COVID PPE Fraud Probe

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Three individuals including a married couple have been arrested in connection with a fraud scheme that may have cost several companies millions of dollars.

Officers from the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) searched two properties in Loughborough and Lytham St Annes, arresting a man in his fifties and his wife, as well as a second 39-year-old man.

The first man is suspected of setting up a fake UK company solely for the purpose of selling personal protective equipment (PPE) at a time of extremely high demand during the pandemic.

His wife is suspected of helping to launder the proceeds of this fraud scheme, and the second man is believed to have also aided the plot.

The first man used his shell company to sign deals to sell nitrile gloves to companies in the US and Germany worth over $35 million, according to the NCA. An upfront fee was paid into a holding account by the firms, with the agreement that those funds would only be released once the contract was fulfilled.

However, the couple allegedly accessed the funds without ever delivering the PPE as agreed.

It’s thought the trio may have defrauded their US and German clients by almost £1.9m ($2.4m).

Work is now underway in the US and Germany to further the investigation, according to NCA branch commander Mick Pope.

“During the pandemic, both individuals and businesses were impacted by criminal opportunists. The NCA prioritized and tackled a range of serious organized crime threats, including fraud,” he said.

“False business agreements that turn out to be fraud, damage the reputation of the UK and hurt our economy.”

Sales of non-existent or counterfeit PPE were just one of a range of scams perpetrated by cyber-fraudsters during the pandemic, alongside fake vaccine certificates and home tests.

Allegations of fraud reach all the way to the very top of government. A parliamentary report last summer estimated that “significant failings” in the management of PPE contracts could end up costing taxpayers £2.7bn, citing Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) figures that 5% of PPE spending may have involved fraud.

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