Last Updated on January 31, 2021
The President has named the former head of the State of Washington’s Employment Security Department (ESD) to a position overseeing unemployment claims even as she is dogged by a scandal that cost her state over $600,000,000.
Biden has named Suzi LeVine, the departing head of Washington State’s ESD, as the interim assistant secretary of the Employment & Training Administration. This is a division of the US Labor Department that assists states in processing unemployment claims.
The position puts LeVine in a lead spot in Biden’s economic recovery plan. The office’s annual budget is approximately $9 billion, or close to 75 percent of the Labor Department’s overall budget dollars.
The Employment & Training Administration will have a vital role in rejuvenating the troubled labor market after the government mandated pandemic shutdowns caused the shedding of more than 10 million jobs.
A longtime fundraising bundler for national Democrats, former Microsoft executive Suzi LeVine is now in the "hot seat" — heading a Washington employment department battered by fraud and delayed payouts to workers. (via @Jim_Brunner & @pmalonedc)https://t.co/7I3lrAjcdC
— The Seattle Times (@seattletimes) June 2, 2020
But Biden’s choice of LeVine comes at the height of an unemployment fraud scandal in Washington State that saw her department scammed out of over $600 million.
A well-organized Nigerian fraud ring, using stolen identities from prior data breaches, executed more than 122,000 fraudulent unemployment claims to her state-level department siphoning off the cash.
The US Secret Service, the federal entity responsible for investigating Treasury fraud, said in an issued statement that Washington State was the main target of the scandal, though other states were also affected.
UPDATED: Suzi LeVine, commissioner of Washington state’s Employment Security Department, is leaving the embattled agency for a job in the Biden administration. LeVine’s critics responded to the move by highlighting problems at the ESD during her tenure. https://t.co/0oznUWezmy
— The Seattle Times (@seattletimes) January 23, 2021
The State of Washington has been able to recover close to $357 million in partnership with federal law enforcement and select financial institutions across the country. The net loss remains at $243 million.
An audit recently conducted by Washington State officials faulted LeVine for failing to correct the software vulnerability that facilitated the fraud scheme.
Of interest in LeVine’s selection by the President is that she and her husband, Eric, donated $400,000 to the Biden campaign and other Democrat candidates and causes in 2019 and 2020, this according to federal campaign records.