It was announced Friday that Suzie LeVine, Commissioner of Washington State's Employment Security Department (ESD), will be leaving her post at the end of January to take a position in the Biden Administration.
LeVine was directly responsible for the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars from Washington state unemployment funds after the agency was defrauded 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. LeVine was a political appointee of Inslee’s who had been a donor to his campaign.
The Nigerian Fraud ring called Scattered Canary used information of Washington residents from previous data breaches. As a result of the rush to get the checks out, ESD did not have enough time to verify claims before sending payments.
Within two weeks of receiving the funding from the CARES Act, $600 million had been stolen from the fund, which was 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.
LeVine's position in the Biden administration is expected to be announced February 1. LeVine had previously served as the ambassador to Switzerland during the Obama administration.
In a statement Governor Jay Inslee said regarding LeVine's departure, "I wish Suzi the very best in her next adventure. Her dedication and hard-work will add value to the Biden-Harris administration. In our state, she led the Employment Security Department through an extremely challenging time and I never doubted that she had the best interests of working Washingtonians at the heart of all her endeavors.
"She led the successful implementation of our state's historic Paid Family and Medical Leave program, which has allowed nearly one-hundred thousand people to spend time with their families without having to worry about additional financial stress and strain. I thank Suzi for her work in Washington and look forward to hearing about what she takes on next."
LeVine said in a statement, "I have loved every minute of my job here at ESD, even the ones that have been the most difficult. From the moment I started with the agency, I recognized my role as Commissioner is a position with profound purpose that has a positive impact on millions of lives as well as no shortage of really hard problems to solve.
"I am humbled and honored to have served my state in this way these past two and a half years and look forward to applying my accumulated knowledge and experience to some of the hardest challenges our nation has ever faced."
The Post Millennial reached out to Suzie LeVine and the Biden administration but has not yet heard back at time of publication.
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