Is the WA Employment Security Department hindering a fraud investigation?

Dec 1, 2020, 5:54 AM
Unemployment fraud, wa unemployment...
A stack of unemployment forms. (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Earlier this year, the state’s Employment Security Department reported that it paid hundreds of millions of dollars in unemployment benefits to fraudsters, and that the false unemployment claims were made with tens of thousands of identities stolen from Washingtonians.

The security breach led to a loss of $650 million, almost $300 million of which is still to be recovered, and the Seattle Times reports that auditors may be facing interference from the ESD. Lynn Brewer was an executive at Enron during the company’s now-infamous 2001 scandal, and has been following the ESD story closely.

“I made a public records request on June 5 and June 6, one was for all emails related to the delay in payments, and for the period — I think middle of March or end of March to that June 5 period — and then all text messages between LeVine and the governor related to the delay of payments,” Brewer told the Dori Monson Show. “They quickly said there are tens of thousands of documents despite it being a 6-8 week period of time, which I found absolutely incredible.”

Hundreds of millions in unemployment benefits paid to fraudsters

“So they then worked with my attorney to narrow the scope, at least for the initial dump of documents. And to date, we’ve received nothing,” she said. “And they’ve said that they cannot give any documents until December 31, which is unreasonable. And so we filed suit a couple of weeks ago seeking the court to deem those documents to be due and owing to us.”

Brewer says the lack of transparency and consequences is partially what’s led to the delay, which she finds troubling considering that Washingtonians are the shareholders in this government.

“If you haven’t lost your job despite losing more money than Enron lost, of course there’s no consequence for your actions and the delay of producing those documents … Washingtonians are the shareholders of government in this state, and as such we’re entitled to see with complete transparency what’s going on. And that’s why the state auditor is now revealing that, in fact, she’s been stonewalling the auditor’s office as well, and not just related to this issue,” she said.

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Brewer says the investigations into the use of all types of funds and the delays in payments seem to suggest that there is a bit a cover-up transpiring.

“As we talked about, I think the last time I was on air, it was a whistleblower inside the ESD has said that for the one month period that this money was coming from the federal government that they released the security parameters on the system that allowed these Nigerians and whoever else to hack the system,” she said.

“I can tell you that I’m just now getting responses to emails that I sent in March,” Brewer added. “They’re just now coming through. So, you know, this is the most poorly run governmental agency I have ever seen. And what is interesting is the state auditor — they’re not just auditing related to the delay in payments — they’re relating to the use of funds that the federal government sent in, they’re looking at all sorts of things within this agency. And so it would seem to me that there is a whole lot of cover up going on.”

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Is the WA Employment Security Department hindering a fraud investigation?