Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced last week that his office recovered another $9.3 million stolen as part of a massive fraud carried out against states across the country. Fraudsters had deposited the money into Bank of America accounts. Last week, a King County Superior Court judge ordered Bank of America to return the stolen funds to Washington state.
Ferguson’s Complex Litigation Division has now used forfeiture laws to recover $33.7 million stolen from the Employment Security Department. The Attorney General’s team is recovering stolen money sitting in bank accounts and other institutions such as PayPal. AG Ferguson is the only state attorney general to exercise state asset forfeiture powers to recover these taxpayer funds.
During the pandemic, sophisticated fraud rings used identity data harvested from data breaches to steal tens of billions of dollars from at least 11 states, including Washington.
The Attorney General’s Office anticipates additional recoveries from other financial institutions in the months ahead. The recovered resources go back to the state and federal unemployment systems.
“Our initiative is delivering results for taxpayers,” Ferguson said. “Fraudsters parked this money in accounts with banks and financial institutions all over the country. We’re going directly to those institutions to get it back. We are not slowing down.”
A federal watchdog estimates that the nationwide unemployment fraud totals $45.6 billion. According to media reports, Washington’s Employment Security Department experienced approximately $645 million in fraud—roughly 1.4%. Washington’s recovery from pandemic-related unemployment fraud totals more than $400 million.