Suzi LeVine, the head of Washington state’s Employment Security Department (ESD), will leave her post to serve in the Biden administration as "interim political head" of the Employment and Training Administration (ETA), under the Labor Department according to the Seattle Times.
LeVine who lost hundreds of millions of dollars in Washington State unemployment funds to Nigerian scammers will be starting the position on Monday for the ETA which “administers federal government job training and worker dislocation programs, federal grants to states for public employment service programs, and unemployment insurance benefits,” according to their website.
LeVine was a political appointee of Governor Jay Inslee and a donor to his campaign. According to federal filings, LeVine and her husband have donated over $400,000 to the Biden campaign and other Democrat causes from 2019-2020. Blomberg reported that LeVine served as the Democratic National Committee’s deputy national finance chair.
LeVine’s departure for the Biden administration was announced last Friday but the position in the administration was not known at that time. The appointment drew sharp criticism from those who had called for LeVine to be removed from her position in Washington state, after she was directly responsible for the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars from Washington state unemployment funds by a massive fraud operation perpetrated by Nigerian scammers.
An audit of the agency found that through the end of June 2020, the ESD had lost $600 million dollars to Nigerian fraudsters. They recovered only about $250 million of the missing funds. ESD said that more had been recovered since June for a total at the time of $357 million. Original estimates placed the loss at closer to $1 billion, though a large amount of the difference was recovered when the fraud was detected.
The audit found that LeVine and ESD had deliberately bypassed the waiting period for benefits, in order to send out unemployment checks faster. That action was taken by LeVine at the urging of Democrat Governor Jay Inslee.
The Nigerian fraud ring called Scattered Canary used information of Washington residents from previous data breaches to file for unemployment and in the rush to get the checks out, ESD did not have enough time to verify claims before sending payments, which the scammers capitalized on.
Within two weeks of receiving funding from the CARES Act, $600 million had been stolen from the state unemployment fund, which totaled approximately 8 percent of the $8.6 billion paid out in benefits over the summer. The state had to stop all payments for days while it investigated the fraud.
Since March, the state has identified over 122,000 fraudulent claims. As a result of the fraud, thousands of Washington residents did not receive unemployment for months during the financial crisis caused by Governor Inslee's COVID restrictions and lockdowns.
It was revealed by King 5 News last week, that the fraud was so widespread that 59 employees of Washington State’s Employment Security Department (ESD) had fraudulent unemployment claims made against their own benefit accounts, according to.
According to Bloomberg, the ETA is “poised to wield immense authority in executing President Joe Biden’s mission to rapidly repair a labor market reeling from the virus-induced surge of layoffs and structural damage.”