Joe Biden’s reported pick for an important U.S. Labor Department job that is involved with helping states process unemployment claims was the commissioner of the state agency that lost a massive amount of money to unemployment fraud that reportedly constituted the largest known theft of public money in the state’s history.
Suzi LeVine headed the Employment Security Department (ESD) in the state of Washington that was scammed for $600 million owing to its alleged failure to fix a software vulnerability. In the ongoing investigation, it’s still not clear how much of the stolen cash was comprised of state funds vs. federal dollars.
“The fraudulent unemployment claims were believed to be linked to a well-organized Nigerian fraud ring using identities stolen in prior data breaches, such as the massive 2017 Equifax breach. More than 122,000 fraudulent claims made in the state siphoned off the cash,” Fox News reported. With the intervention of federal law enforcement, Washington has recovered $357 million, but $243 million is still missing from state coffers.
Biden has designated LeVine to become interim assistant secretary of the Employment and Training Administration, a subagency which, by itself, has a budget of around $9 billion. LeVine would be subject to U.S. Senate confirmation to eliminate the interim designation from her title.
“The new job would put [LeVine] at the front of President Biden’s economic recovery plan,” Fox News added, which is not particularly reassuring for taxpayers.
Democrat Gov. Jay Inslee rejected calls to fire LeVine — said to be a major Democrat fundraiser who previously was an Obama administration official — after the theft was revealed. Last month in the runup to the release of the first of several expected assessments of what happened, Washington’s state auditor accused LeVine of dragging her feet in providing the auditor’s office with information about the fraud as the probe continues, the Seattle Times reported.
One of the apparent contributing factors to the scam is that Inslee himself used an executive order to wave the standard waiting week for unemployment benefits such that the state paid out benefits before ESD verified a claimant’s eligibility.
Making matters worse, the agency’s fraud detection program that was supposed to provide an alert for potential identity theft was not operational for most of 2020, the Times noted.
“LeVine said ESD has already implemented the auditor’s recommendations to improve its anti-fraud defenses,” she told the Times last month.
According to State Auditor Pat McCarthy, ESD took the “not normal” step of substantially increasing the estimate of fraudulent unemployment claims just days before the audit was scheduled for release.
California also has been victimized by unemployment fraudsters that could be of epic proportions according to some estimates.
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) December 18, 2020
Watch a local news report about the Suzi LeVine move from Washington to Washington: