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U.S. attorney collects record restitution, fines

by EMILY THORNTON
Community Editor | January 8, 2021 1:00 AM

The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington announced Monday his office collected $61,950,459 in fiscal year 2020, of which $2,603,880 was restitution for crime victims and $59,346,578 was civil actions.

The collections are nearly a 100% increase in four years due to the office’s emphasis since 2017, a release stated.

“This is a substantial sum of which we are immensely proud,” said U.S. Attorney William D. Hyslop in a release. “It is great news for the residents of the district and this country. It is an equally great testament to the diligent work of the attorneys and staff of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Washington who have achieved this.”

Examples of the collections included $57.5 million paid by Bechtel National Inc., a Department of Energy contractor at the Hanford nuclear site, in a settlement of civil fraud claims; restitution to crime victims in multiple Project Safe Childhood cases, such as a $400,000 and a $11,000 case; more than $930,000 in criminal restitution for the Internal Revenue Service and the Social Security Administration related to theft of government funds cases and criminal tax; and $1.1 million for the U.S. Forest Service and Department of Interior from a civil enforcement case out of the Aug. 19, 2015, Twisp River Fire in Okanogan County.

The U.S. Justice Department collected more than $15.9 billion in civil and criminal actions in fiscal year 2020, which ended Sept. 30, 2020. That equals more than five times the approximately $3.2 billion budget for the DOJ’s 94 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and its main litigating divisions during the same period, the release stated.

The U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and DOJ’s litigating divisions are responsible for enforcing and collecting criminal and civil debts owed to the U.S. and criminal debts owed to federal crime victims. Defendants by law must pay restitution to victims of certain crimes who have suffered physical injury or financial loss. Criminal fines and assessments are paid to the department’s Crime Victims Fund, which distributes the money to federal and state victim compensation and assistance programs.

The largest civil collections were from cases in which the U.S. recovered government money lost to fraud or other schemes, or fines imposed on people and/or companies for violations of federal safety, heath, civil rights or environmental laws. Civil debts also were collected for several federal agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Internal Revenue Service, Department of Health and Human Services, Small Business Administration and Department of Education.

(This story has been edited to reflect the correct total collected in fiscal year 2020.)