LOCAL NEWS

$9.3 million stolen unemployment funds recovered by WA Attorney General

Jan 23, 2023, 8:47 AM | Updated: 9:38 am
stolen unemployment...
(Photo via Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images).
(Photo via Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced Monday morning that $9.3 million in stolen unemployment funds were recovered from criminals who defrauded multiple states around the country.

Millions of dollars were found in multiple bank accounts, and most of the money had been stolen during the pandemic by “sophisticated fraud rings,” according to the Attorney General.

Experts say odometer fraud is on the rise in Washington state

The fraudsters used identity data harvested from data breaches to steal tens of billions of dollars from at least 11 states, including Washington. Through the investigation, the Attorney General’s Office launched a legal effort to reclaim these funds for the state with the assistance of these financial institutions.

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.”

The primary strategy used to get the money back was subpoenaing more than 35 banks and credit unions in an effort to identify accounts that received unemployment benefit payments from multiple states, accounts that received deposits of unemployment benefits to various people, or a mismatch between the personal information of the account holder and the person who supposedly applied for the benefits deposited in the account.

The Complex Litigation Division of the Attorney General’s Office has recovered $33.7 million stolen from the Employment Security Department.

According to an article in the Washington Post, 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 – or about 1.4%. Washington’s total recovery from pandemic-related unemployment fraud totals more than $400 million.

To assist in the investigation, Ferguson’s office retained former FBI Agent Gregory Coleman, the case agent responsible for all aspects of the “Wolf of Wall Street” investigation.

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$9.3 million stolen unemployment funds recovered by WA Attorney General