Auditor: Nigerian ESD Scheme Likely Took $1.1 Billion from State
Former ESD Director Suzy Levine was last seen leaving WA State February 1st, reportedly heading to a Biden Administration job.
The job? In the Department of Labor, overseeing (shudder!) unemployment programs.
She was the director of the Washington State Employment Services Department, who made world wide headlines in 2020 over the Nigerian fraud scheme that initially was thought to have bilked the state out of between $600-670 million via fake unemployment claims.
Now, Wednesday April 14, the Washington State Auditor's Office has released a new report indicating the total damage from the scheme is probably closer to $1.1 billion.
The Auditor's office says the fraud appears to be broken down into two categories. They include:
- "$647 million in known misappropriations and
- $461 million in questionable payments – claims that were flagged by ESD for review, but not yet investigated."
The Auditor's report indicates some types of fraud are still occurring, and as of the end of 2020, there were still at least 56,000 backlogged cases awaiting review and investigation.
Auditor Pat McCarthy released the results of three audits that were done on ESD by her office, during which officials complained about stonewalling, stalling and outright resistance by some ESD officials to release information or cooperate.
It's been no secret of the frosty relationship between the Auditor's office and ESD. McCarthy included this bitter, sharp information in her report:
"While Washington was not alone in being targeted, the state Employment Security Department continues to struggle in answering customer questions, investigating suspected fraud and retrieving important data from its systems, the audits found."
According to numerous reports, the window of opportunity for the fraud began when Levin, at the insistence of Gov. Inslee to speed up claims. bypassed normal security and fraud detection to process the massive amounts of COVID related worker claims.
In some cases, reports indicate ESD workers 'turned off' or bypassed normal security measures and cross checking; simply processing claims as fast as they arrived.
This incident remains the biggest unemployment insurance fraud in U.S. history.
It's only fitting we add ESD to the list below.
KEEP READING: These are the top 6 scams connected to the pandemic