AG Ferguson’s office recovers another $9.3M in stolen unemployment money

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced on Monday that his office has recovered another $9.3 million stolen from the state’s Employment Security Department.

Ferguson said thieves deposited the stolen money into Bank of America accounts and a King County Superior Court judge ordered the bank to return the funds to Washington state.

During the pandemic, fraud rings stole billions of dollars from at least 11 states, including Washington.

The AG’s office said it used a new approach to recover $33.7 million stolen from the state’s Employment Security Department.

Investigators with Ferguson’s office used information from ESD and subpoenaed more than 35 banks and credit unions across the country to identify accounts with balances of $1,000 or more that had indicators of possible fraud.

When such accounts were identified, forfeiture laws were used to recover stolen money sitting in accounts at banks and other institutions such as PayPal.

“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 Washington Attorney General’s Office is not aware of any other state using a similar strategy to recover stolen dollars held in financial institutions,” Ferguson’s office said in a news release.