County recovers $13K of stolen money
MANTI—Sanpete County Treasurer Amy Willden says they have gotten back about $13,000 of the $37,850 scammers stole from the county through deception, but the location of the remaining $24,850 is still unknown for now.
Although County Attorney Brody Keisel has been working diligently to retrieve the money, Willden says the county has only received approximately $13,000 back because Chase Bank, the institution the criminals used, insist they must follow a set of procedures on their end.
While Chase has determined that the request to wire funds was indeed fraudulent, they say the money was not deposited into the registered account and they are still trying to validate where that money went.
Willden says the only thing the county currently knows is that these are international scammers who are based out of the country, and thus far, there are no leads.
“We are working hard for the county and this was a mistake,” Willden told the Messenger. “Policies have been changed. New procedures have been put in place and we are implementing them. We are concerned about it and we want things to run smoothly so things like this don’t happen again.”
Currently, procedures for checks written by the county require documentation of proposed payments, which are typically accounted for on a warrant register and then approved by the county commission. Then the auditor’s office writes a check which is then signed and sent by the treasurer. However, Willden says policies for wire transfers were unclear at the time of the fraud.
Since then, wire transfer procedures have been made clear and will be handled using the same method as check payments; however, an extra step has been implemented and requires heads of each department to verbalize any transaction before being made.
Before, Willden says the treasurer’s office rarely handled business by email, but because of how meticulous the scammers were, and the urgency used in the message, the wire was made without verbal confirmation by auditors or county commissioners.
“We need to hear from all parties,” Willden said about the new procedures, “that ‘yes, this is valid, we’ve talked about it, we’ve heard about it; or no, we need to do some more digging before we move forward with any transfers.’”
“I feel horrible about making such a mistake and it’s unfortunate that Utah has been a target for fraud because I think we tend to be more trusting.”
She says she intends to questions more about county finances, as well as her own, and will continue to remain cautious in all things.