The woman picked by President Joe Biden to oversee the federal unemployment benefits that are part of the president’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief proposal previously lost hundreds of millions of dollars in coronavirus relief funds to Nigerian scammers.
Bloomberg Law reported that Washington state Employment Security Department (ESD) Commissioner Suzi LeVine on Monday began her job as “interim political head of the Employment and Training Administration,” the federal workforce agency that helps oversee unemployment benefits in the coronavirus relief bills. As The Federalist reported, LeVine’s history in Washington state make her ill-suited for the position, considering that her department lost $600 million in coronavirus relief funds to a long-known Nigerian fraud group known as “Scattered Canary.”
“According to the U.S. Secret Service, Washington was the ‘primary state targeted’ by the ‘well-organized Nigerian fraud ring exploiting the COVID-19 crisis to commit large-scale fraud against state unemployment insurance programs.’ The group, which historically targeted other American aid funds such as for students, Social Security, and disaster relief, used information from other breaches in Washington to create bogus joblessness claims and hike up the system’s number of claims,” the Federalist reported. “Under LeVine, ESD, overwhelmed with a sudden and ‘unusual’ surge in state requests for financial help despite the falling national number, quickly pushed through the payouts for the claims, intentionally and knowingly skipping the identity verification processes that usually occurs during an unemployment payout ‘waiting week.’ As a result, LeVine later reluctantly admitted the fraud and temporarily suspended all benefit payments for a couple of days, completely cutting off legitimate claimants as the department and law enforcement began the financial cleanup and attempted recovery from the bogus claims.”
Washington conducted five audits of the missing fund, the first finding that a software liability allowed Scattered Canary to fraudulently claim hundreds of millions of dollars in state aid. Washington was able to recover $357 million of what was lost, but that still left $243 million missing from the fund. LeVine also had to announce that other fraudsters took $1.6 million in state aid.
Not only was LeVine the head of the department when these failures occurred, but she allegedly tried to interfere with the audits. The Seattle Times reported that State Auditor Pat McCarthy said LeVine imposed “significant constraints” on her attempts to audit the ESD. McCarthy said LeVine tried to limit “interviews with key ESD employees and delay[ed] access to important documents.” McCarthy eventually had to threaten to report LeVine’s “management interference” if she was not able to conclude her audit.
LeVine was not fired for the scandal and is instead being rewarded with a position, possibly temporary, in the Biden administration. It should be noted that LeVine donated “hundreds of thousands of dollars to Biden’s 2020 campaign and other ‘Democratic causes’ and served as a deputy national finance chair for the Democratic National Committee with her husband in 2017,” the Federalist reported.
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