Attorney General Ferguson uses innovative approach to recover $495,000 in stolen unemployment benefits

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson
OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson has announced that his office recovered $495,000 stolen from the Washington Employment Security Department, making Washington the first state to use its asset forfeiture power to recover stolen funds.

The money will be returned to the Washington unemployment insurance trust fund.

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

While multiple states suffered substantial losses, Attorney General Ferguson is the first state attorney general to exercise state asset forfeiture powers to recover stolen funds. 

Attorney General Ferguson initiated a unique investigation searching for bank accounts where fraudsters had not yet withdrawn all stolen funds, and launched a legal effort to reclaim these funds for the state.

Today, Ferguson announced that King County Superior Court Judge Johanna Bender granted the attorney general’s first motion for forfeiture, ordering TD Bank to transfer back to Washington $495,000 from 120 accounts where the stolen funds had been deposited. 

The bank did not oppose the motion. Ferguson’s office is pursuing similar recoveries involving other large banks.

This action is wholly separate from the multi-agency federal law enforcement task force investigation resulting in multiple arrests of Nigerian citizens allegedly connected to the fraud. Ferguson’s office has been assisting federal efforts, while also searching for additional ways to use its authority.

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