President Joe Biden’s choice for the interim lead of the Employment and Training Administration, former Washington state Employment Security Department (ESD) Commissioner Suzi LeVine, reportedly lost $600 million in coronavirus relief funds to Nigerian scammers in her previous position.
LeVine began her job on Monday at the federal workforce agency helping oversee unemployment benefits in the coronavirus relief packages.
The Federalist reports that LeVine’s department lost the funds to an infamous group of Nigerian scammers called “Scattered Canary” according to the U.S. Secret Service. Washington state was 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 previously targeted other American aid funds for students, disaster relief and even Social Security, using information from database breaches in Washington to manufacture unemployment claims.
The Federalist reports:
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.
The state conducted five audits of the missing funds and discovered that a software liability had allowed Scattered Canary to fraudulently claim hundreds of millions in coronavirus relief funds meant for those hardest hit by the pandemic lockdowns in Washington.
As a result of the audits, the state was able to recover $357 million of the total amount lost, however, $243 million remains lost. In addition to the fraud, LeVine was forced to announce that other fraudsters stole $1.6 million in state aid.
According to the Federalist, LeVine was the head of the department when the fraud occurred, and even tried to interfere with the audits. According to State Auditor Pat McCarthy, LeVine imposed “significant restraints” on the audit of the ESD. LeVine attempted to limit “interviews with key ESD employees and delayed access to important documents.” McCarthy was forced to threaten to report LeVine’s “management interference” that got in the way of the audit.
Instead of being fired for her failures to properly secure the coronavirus relief funds, LeVine was instead promoted by the Biden administration. The Federalist notes 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.”