More on unemployment insurance imposter fraud

By: Kriss Sjoblom
1:23 pm
May 22, 2020

The Seattle Times has a front page article today on the rash of fraudulent claims that has plagued the state Employment Security Department in recent weeks:

Washington state officials have acknowledged the loss of “hundreds of millions of dollars” to an international fraud scheme that hammered the state’s unemployment insurance system and could mean even longer delays for thousands of jobless workers still waiting for legitimate benefits.

Suzi LeVine, commissioner of the state Employment Security Department (ESD), disclosed the staggering losses during a news conference Thursday afternoon. LeVine declined to specify how much money was stolen during the scam, which is believed to be orchestrated from Nigeria. But she conceded that the amount was “orders of magnitude above” the $1.6 million that the ESD reported losing to fraudsters in April.

An article in the Tacoma News Tribune reports that city of Tacoma and University of Washington employees have had false claims made in their names.

On Thursday, in response to questions from The News Tribune, the city of Tacoma reported that hundreds of city employees may have been targeted.

“Based on information received from ESD and reports from city employees as of this morning, we have reports of 332 possible fraudulent claims filed with ESD,” Maria Lee, media representative with the city, told The News Tribune via email.

The cases involve workers across multiple departments.

University of Washington’s Victor Balta, director of UW News on the Seattle campus, told The News Tribune on Thursday, “About half of the unemployment claims we have received are suspected fraudulent since we started tracking them for faculty, staff and medical personnel over the past several weeks.

“We don’t typically tally them in this way, so we started the count at different times for faculty, staff and medical employees. These are rough counts, but among the claims we have counted in this way since late March, more than 1,100 are suspected fraudulent out of just over 2,300 claims included in this count.”

Those numbers, he added, represent all three UW campuses (Seattle, Tacoma, Bothell) and the UW Medicine sites.

TVW coverage of ESD Commissioner LeVine’s press conference is available here.

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