Fraudulent looting of coronavirus relief programs may amount to the most expensive waste of taxpayer money in American history. As much as $600 billion in federal funds intended for coronavirus relief have been siphoned away through various forms of fraud, according to one estimate. In comparison, Congress authorized $5 trillion in total federal relief spending, according to the New York Post. The overwhelming majority of Paycheck Protection Program loans will never be repaid to the government. As of August, 10.2 million PPP loans have been partially or fully forgiven — more than 88 percent of the 11.5 million loans that were issued. The program was authorized with the goal of keeping small businesses and their employees afloat amid the pandemic’s effect on the economy. It’s not entirely clear how many PPP payments were obtained under false pretenses. But federal prosecutors have nabbed a multitude of fraudsters for stealing loans — with some of the worst offenders operating organized rings that stole millions of dollars from the taxpayer. Prosecutors are charging and convicting coronavirus fraudsters, according to Post. More than 1,500 have been slapped with charges, and nearly 500 thieves have been convicted. However, coronavirus relief fraud was so massive in scale that it’s unlikely most of the perpetrators will ever answer for their crimes in an American court. The scams didn’t just target federal programs. International criminals and scammers looted state coronavirus relief programs. An FBI investigation into the online presence of a Nigerian government official revealed the defrauding of state unemployment programs to the tune of $350,000, according to an affidavit obtained by NBC News. The state of Maryland alone detected 1.3 million fraudulent state unemployment claims as the program was buffed in the midst of the pandemic. A single coordinated ring of identity thieves netted over $500 million in the state’s unemployment funds, according to Fox News. “This criminal enterprise seeking to take advantage of a global pandemic to steal hundreds of millions, perhaps billions, of dollars from taxpayers is despicable,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said of the theft as it was discovered in July 2020, according to Fox. Blake Hall, the CEO of a company that provides ID verification for 27 different states, has a jarring analogy for an unprecedented theft spree that’s largely occurred over the internet, according to NBC. “This is like letting people just walk right into Fort Knox and take the gold, and nobody even asked any questions.” This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.