Employment Security Department (ESD) Commissioner Suzi LeVine, who came under fire for delays in unemployment benefit payments and the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars to fraud during the pandemic, is leaving her position to join the administration of President Joe Biden.
According to a news release issued Friday, LeVine’s departure is effective Feb. 1. No details of her new position have been released.
Deputy Commissioner Cami Feek will serve as acting commissioner until Gov. Jay Inslee appoints a permanent replacement.
In September 2020, a KING 5 Investigation confirmed the ESD's fraud detection software was so weak in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, it couldn’t even detect fraudulent claims filed in the stolen identities of the agency’s own employees.
Records obtained by the KING 5 Investigators in January 2021 show fraudulent unemployment claims were filed in the stolen identities of 59 employees who work at the state’s ESD.
In 10 of those cases, ESD spotted the fraud after it had paid the claim to the fraudster’s bank account. The documents, provided in response to a public records request submitted seven months ago, do not show how much money was paid out.
ESD said, in total, approximately 120,000 fraudulent claims were filed in Washington with more than $600 million in payouts. More than half of that money was recovered by investigators tracking fraud rings in the U.S. and abroad.
LeVine said a number of factors contributed to the state’s largest fraud: the pandemic, a desire to process claims quickly for the growing numbers of jobless workers, a small ESD workforce, and fraud rings that were waiting in the wings with identities stolen from past security breaches that did not involve ESD.