That leaves about 1 percent, approximately $223.4 million, lost to fraud thus far while 99 percent of unemployment benefits went to support workers as intended
The Center Square Washington
An innovative legal effort has enabled Washington to recover $42 million originally paid out in fraudulent unemployment claims during the COVID-19 pandemic, state Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced Thursday.
Ferguson said 26 banks, credit unions and other financial institutions across the country cooperated with investigative efforts by his office to locate and return funds deposited by scammers who obtained state and federal unemployment benefits by fraudulent means.
“Our innovative use of the law to recover stolen funds led the nation. We delivered results for taxpayers and unemployed Washingtonians,” Ferguson said in a press statement.
Beginning in April 2020, soon after the pandemic led to business closures and laid-off workers, Washington’s unemployment insurance program was one of the first to suffer “an unprecedented and massive nationwide attack of imposter fraud,” the attorney general’s office said.
Using identity data harvested from breached sources, sophisticated fraud rings stole billions of dollars from 53 government programs that received federal pandemic unemployment benefits, according to a recent government accountability report.
“While the exact extent of the fraud is still unknown, the same report estimated losses to fraud nationally to be as much as $135 billion,” Ferguson’s office said.
Soon after the thefts, in coll