Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced today that his office has recovered an additional $6.6 million stolen as part of a massive fraud perpetrated against states across the country. The money had been deposited by fraudsters into JPMorgan Chase Bank accounts, and a King County Superior Court judge ordered JPMorgan Chase Bank to return the stolen funds to Washington State.
Ferguson’s complex litigation division has now used forfeiture laws to recover $18.8 million stolen from the employment security department. Essentially, the Attorney General recovers stolen money that is in accounts at banks and other institutions such as PayPal. While several states have suffered substantial losses, Attorney General Ferguson remains the only state attorney general to exercise state asset forfeiture powers to recover taxpayer money.
During the pandemic, sophisticated fraud rings have used identity data harvested from data breaches to steal billions of dollars from at least 11 states, including Washington. Although the exact extent of the fraud is still unknown, a recent monitoring report estimated it to be at least $163 billion nationwide.
Attorney General Ferguson launched a one-time investigation looking for bank accounts where the fraudsters had not yet withdrawn all of the stolen funds, and launched a lawsuit to recover those funds for the state. To date, financial institutions across the country have cooperated with the Attorney General’s investigation. The Attorney General’s office anticipates additional collections from other financial institutions in the coming months. Recovered resources return to the state unemployment system.
This action is entirely separate from the Federal Law Enforcement Multi-Agency Task Force investigation, which resulted in multiple arrests of Nigerian citizens allegedly linked to the fraud. Ferguson’s office supported federal efforts, while seeking other ways to use its authority.
“We target stolen funds that are in bank accounts before fraudsters can withdraw them,” Ferguson said. “We are the only state to use this strategy, and we are having success. We will continue to use every tool in our toolbox to recover stolen funds for Washingtonians. »
Source: Washington Attorney General